Shingles (cont.)

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How is shingles diagnosed?

The clinical appearance of shingles, with characteristic painful blisters localized to the region of a specific nerve, is usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis. No diagnostic tests are usually required. However, particularly in people with impaired immune function, shingles may sometimes not display the characteristic clinical pattern. In these cases, samples from the affected area may be tested in a laboratory, either by culturing the tissue for growth of the virus or by identifying the genetic material of the virus.

What is the treatment for shingles? Should I visit my health care professional?

There are several effective treatments for shingles. Drugs that fight viruses (antivirals), such as acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), or famciclovir (Famvir), can reduce the severity and duration of the rash if started early (within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash). In addition to antiviral medications, pain medications may be needed for symptom control. Both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and narcotic pain-control medications may be used for pain management in shingles.

The affected area should be kept clean. Bathing is permitted, and the area can be cleansed with soap and water. Cool compresses and anti-itching lotions, such as calamine lotion, may also provide relief. An aluminum acetate solution (Burow's or Domeboro solution, available at your pharmacy) can be used to help dry up the blisters and oozing.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/28/2013

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