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Q.

I’m experiencing pain from zoster (shingles). What causes the pain and is there any treatment for it?

 

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A.

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a very painful infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. This virus also causes chicken pox (varicella) and can stay dormant in your nervous system for years between outbreaks.

Although the skin blisters from shingles usually heal in one to three weeks, pain can persist because the virus is still active in the nerves of the skin.

To help with pain, try over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen; cold compresses; oatmeal baths; or anti-itch cream. Also be sure to get plenty of rest and fluids, as with any other viral infection. If your pain is severe or lasts more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor about whether an antiviral medication might help your symptoms. You also should talk to your doctor about your risk of having another outbreak and whether the varicella zoster vaccine might be useful.

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