Dr. Shavin " do I have shingles?". This is a question all of us at Gwinnett Dermatology frequently hear. More often than not the answer is "no." However, this is not a rare problem and we see many patients with shingles.
Let me spend a little time explaining this disorder. First of all the medical term is Herpes Zoster. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. When one has chickenpox the virus lies dormant in our nervous system for years. If there is a let down in our immune surveillance system the virus can activate and result in a rash that typically involves an area of skin on one side only. the rash lasts for 2 to 3 weeks and slowly heals often leaving discoloration or even scars.
Anyone of any age can get shingles although it is more common with advancing age. There is excellent treatment for the rash if we are able to see you within 72 hours of onset; however, the more serious problem is PAIN! Some patients develop severe and long lasting pain requiring pain control specialists.
Other factors that predispose patients to developing shingles are those who have weakened immune systems. This may include patients with AIDS,transplant patients, cancer, or people undergoing cancer therapy.
Shingles can be contagious and may even transmit chickenpox to an unvaccinated person.
The take home message is to be sure and get into our office with any painful rash on one side. Also, I would urge all patients over age 50 to get the shingles vaccine.
Joel S. Shavin,MD