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Shingles are an all too common occurrence. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), almost 1 out of 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime. The great news is that the majority of people who get shingles will only have it once.

So, while shingles are common and most people know someone who has had them, do we really know all there is to know about shingles?

 We sat down with Neuropathy Treatment Clinic of Oklahoma’s own Jennifer Martin, DNP, APRN/CNP and asked her to help us get to the bottom of understanding shingles and how the pain associated with shingles can be treated.

 So, what exactly are shingles? 

Shingles is a viral infection that causes one to break out in a painful blistery rash. It is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, which is varicella-zoster. If you have already had chickenpox (statistically 99% of Americans over the age of 40 have) you are more susceptible to getting shingles because the virus is already in your nerves; It is just inactive.  

What are the signs and symptoms? 

The earliest sign of shingles is when you develop flu-like symptoms such as general weakness and fever. The next sign is when you begin to feel pain or burning in the area where the rash may develop; which is typically on your face, chest, back or waist. The pain can be intense and grows worse as the rash begins to develop.

To get a glimpse of what it is like to have shingles, we asked Anna Arage (63) about her recent outbreak. “It is extremely painful,” Anna said. “It has completely zapped my energy and it is hard to get up every morning. The rash is on my right side and my torso is swollen around the rash site. It is keeping me from being my feisty self and I am doing everything I can to get rid of it.”

Shingles typically last between 3-5 weeks. Unfortunately, sometimes that is just the beginning. Roughly 1 in 5 patients with shingles go on to develop something called postherpetic neuralgia.

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the nerve damage caused by the shingles rash even after the rash is no longer present. Shingles follow a nerve pattern, so wherever it is sitting, it is damaging those nerves and will cause long-term pain. These symptoms include itching, numbness, deep and aching pain long after the rash has cleared up.

Where does the Neuropathy Treatment Clinic of Oklahoma come in? 

NTCO has the technology to treat postherpetic neuralgia. According to Dr. Martin, Neuropathy Treatment Clinic “…uses a vitamin blend injection at the site of the rash and something called combined electrochemical therapy.” Combined electrochemical therapy is sending electrical signals to the affected region which targets and helps soothe the damaged nerves. CET has a high efficacy rate and 87% of patients have said after this treatment, they experience significant relief from their nerve pain.

Concerning shingles and postherpetic neuralgia, Dr. Martin said, “shingles is a virus that has to run its course, but the faster we can treat it, the better because the long-term damage and pain will not be as severe.

Here are some quick answers to a few of the most common questions:

  • Are shingles contagious? Yes and no. Shingles are only contagious while the virus presents itself with a rash and/or blisters. Shingles can be spread by touching the affected area. While the virus is dormant, it is not contagious. People who have an active case of shingles should keep the area covered and wash their hands frequently, but can continue with daily activities such as work.
  • Can you have the shingles as a young adult? Yes. While shingles are most commonly found in adults 65+, young adults and even children can have shingles.
  • Does stress cause shingles? Technically, the answer is no. Stress does not cause shingles, but stress can weaken one’s immune system leading to an increased risk for a shingles flare-up.
  • Besides receiving advanced treatment at the Neuropathy Clinic of Oklahoma, what are some other ways to help with shingles? The best thing you can do for yourself is to eat well-balanced meals and to get plenty of rest. Go for a walk or do things that help take your mind off the pain and help alleviate stress. Wearing loose clothing around the infected area and apply a cool washcloth to your blisters.
  • How can you avoid getting shingles? The CDC recommends that adults 50+ receive the shingles vaccine. Ask your primary care physician for more information about the vaccine and to find out if you are a good candidate for the vaccine.

So, what are you waiting for?

Have you had the shingles rash and are experiencing postherpetic neuralgia? If so, Jennifer and the rest of the Neuropathy Treatment Clinic of Oklahoma team is ready to help! The sooner you can get in and get treatment, the better!