Shingles Q&A: what you need to know

Dr. Shehnaz Zaman Sarmast is a dermatologist with extensive training in general, pediatric, surgical,and cosmetic dermatology. She enjoys working with patients of all ages. She was raised in San Antonio Texas where she graduated suma cum laude from University of Texas San Antonio. Dr.. Sarmast received her Doctorate of Medicine from University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where she was inducted to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. She completed her internal medicine internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and then went on to complete her dermatology residency at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville.

Q. What is shingles?

A. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash usually on one side of your body.

Q. What is the relationship between chickenpox and shingles?

A. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

Q. What do patients experience when they get shingles?

A. The following symptoms are common in patience with shingles:

• Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
• A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
• Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
• Itching

Q. Is Shingles preventable?

A. Yes, there is a vaccine available for people older than age 60.

Q. Can I infect others?

A. You can infect others with chickenpox, but not shingles.

Q. How is shingles treated?

A. Shingles is treated with pain medications, anti-viral medications, steroids and nerve blocks.

Q. Do I need to see a doctor right away if I have shingles?

A. Yes, especially if it involves the eye, forehead or nose. You should also see a doctor right away if the rash is widespread, or if you have other health problems that have weakened your immune system.

Q. What is post herpetic neuralgia?

A. This is the most common problem. It can cause pain, numbness, itching and tingling. These symptoms can last for months, or even years. People who get post herpetic neuralgia also may have fatigue, a decrease in appetite and trouble sleeping. Sometimes they experience intense pain from something as harmless as a light touch. People over age 60 are most likely to have this complication.

Q. How important is it to get treatment?

A. When it comes to contagious conditions such as shingles, it’s very important to get treatment right away to decrease your risk of transmission of the virus as well as the risk of post herpetic neuralgia.

If you are concerned about your skin, we encourage you to make an appointment with us. We believe no concern is too small or insignificant. Call our office at 972-649-6644 and schedule an exam today.