ADA KONG, R.PH.
WHAT IS SHINGLES?
Disease that causes severe pain & blisters
on face and body.
Affects up to 1 million Americans every
Comes from chicken pox virus, called
varicella zoster (or herpes zoster).
Chicken pox virus remains dormant in body
until it is reactivated later on in life &
develops into shingles.
HOW DO YOU GET SHINGLES?
Scientists don’t know how shingles gets
reactivated from chicken pox virus.
Illness, trauma, stress are some factors
that may contribute to cause.
People with weak immune systems (e.g. HIV
patients, radiation treatment, surgery,
chemotherapy) are more likely to get
More common in adults over 50 years old.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
PAIN RED RASH
Vision complications or blindness.
Loss of facial movement.
Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) &
Post-herpetic neuralgia = prolonged pain
even after blisters have healed.
TREATMENT OF SHINGLES
Medications can help with pain & prevent
complications with faster recovery.
Oral antiviral drugs (acyclovir, Valtrex,
Pain medications & corticosteroids (for
Tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants,
Reduces risk of shingles outbreaks by about
50%, also reduces post-herpetic neuralgia.
For adults 60 years and older.
Live vaccine – must be healthy, not
immunocompromised (no cancer,
chemotherapy, steroid treatment etc.).
Side effects: redness, swelling, pain, rash at
injection site. Headache, flu-like symptoms.
Covered by most Medicare D plans.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET SHINGLES
Call your doctor immediately – the sooner
you get medications, the sooner you’ll get
Keep the affected area clean.
Apply cool compresses.
Soak in lukewarm water or calamine lotion.
Take OTC pain reliever (acetaminophen,
ibuprofen) – Check with your pharmacist!
Get plenty of rest.
(Accessed July 2007)
National Library of Medicine