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Painful Facial Rash- Shingles?

Author: Dr. Andrew Kalin MD

According to the CDC “More than 99% of Americans born before 1980 have had chicken pox even if they don’t remember it”. Chickenpox is a viral infection caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus. Once the illness resolves, the virus retreats to nearby nerves and remains dormant in a specific part of nearby nerves called dorsal root ganglia. As we age or get sick, the risk of this virus reactivating increases. In fact, the risk for reactivation of the dormant virus increases beyond 50 years of age or when people develop weakened immune systems due to diseases like cancer or other chronic illnesses. It is when the Varicella-Zoster virus reactivates that it causes a painful rash which is known as Herpes Zoster, or shingles.

“About 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime”

Before the rash appears, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where it will develop. This may happen several days before the rash appears.

Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. Shingles on the face can affect the eye and cause vision loss. In most cases, the rash scabs over in 7-10 days and fully clears up within 2-4 weeks.

Although, most of the time the rash and the pain associated with the rash resolve within a month, some cases can be complicated by long lasting chronic pain that continues even after the rash clears up. In fact, “about 1 in 10 people who get shingles develop nerve pain that lasts for months or years after the rash goes away. This is called postherpetic neuralgia and is the most common complication of shingles”. Postherpetic neuralgia can be treated with various medications and sometimes injections around the affected nerves.

If you develop a painful rash on your face, make sure you see your Health care provider as soon as possible. If you are 50 years of age or older, talk to you Health care provider about getting the shingles vaccine to help prevent severe shingles outbreaks in the future. Want to know more click this link.


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Copyright Dr. Robin Gallardi 2017

Copyright Dr. Robin Gallardi 2017

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