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Shingles is a painful skin rash with blisters. It affects people who have had chicken pox, usually over age 50. There is no cure for shingles, but a vaccine can prevent it or reduce its symptoms.

Common symptoms of shingles include the following:

  • Burning or shooting pain, itching or tingling on one side of the face or body, before the rash appears
  • Painful rash that appears within one to two weeks, where the pain started
  • Blisters that scab over
  • Fever or chills
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Shingles: what you should know

The same virus that causes chicken pox, varicella-zoster, also causes shingles.

  • The virus may stay dormant (inactive) for many years before you get shingles
  • Doctors are not sure what causes the virus to reactivate.

Complications of shingles can include the following:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia (a common complication): persistent, severe pain where the rash had been and after it has healed, lasting weeks, months or years
  • Pneumonia
  • Problems with hearing and vision
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis)

The shingles vaccine can reduce your risk of developing shingles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the vaccine for people age 60 and over. The Food and Drug Administration has approved it for people over age 50.

Care for shingles at Rush

Shingles can clear up on its own, but symptoms tend to be more severe with age. Primary care doctors at Rush focus on managing pain and other symptoms. Treatment options for shingles include the following:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications
  • Antihistamine medications or lotions to relieve itching
  • Lotions, cold compresses or oatmeal baths to relieve itching
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and pain
  • Antiviral medications very soon after the rash appears, to reduce the length and severity of symptoms

Why choose Rush for shingles care

  • The Leapfrog Group has named Rush one of the top hospitals in the country for quality, safety and efficiency in primary care services. Rush, with board-certified physicians in primary care, can be your one-stop shop for shingles treatment.
  • Shingles can be very painful, even after the rash has healed. Rush’s Department of Pain Management has a variety of options to manage your pain and help you live an active life.
  • If you develop postherpetic neuralgia, neurologists at Rush are dedicated to treating neuralgia. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Rush’s neurology and neurosurgery programs as one of the best in the nation.

Departments and programs that treat this condition