Advanced Treatment Options for Shingles in the San Diego Area
Dr. Melanie Palm is a nationally recognized dermatologist and an expert in the treatment of cosmetic and medical skin conditions. Dr. Palm is a noted leader in her field and offers many effective options for the treatment of shingles. Her offices are located in Solana Beach, CA just north of San Diego.
What is Shingles?
Shingles, medically referred to as herpes zoster, is caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus. It usually occurs as burning or pain along one side of the body or face that progresses to grouped blisters on the skin. Shingles follows the distribution of nerves along the skin, thus most cases occur as stripes in the distribution of sensory skin nerves. Shingles may occur on the extremities, or in a severe, disseminated form where skin lesions are found all over the skin.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chicken pox. Once you’ve had the chickenpox, the virus remains in your body but lies dormant in the nerve tissue near your brain and spinal cord. The virus can reactivate many years later as shingles. Increasing age, illness, malnutrition, and other health conditions increase the chances of shingles developing.
Although a chicken pox (varicella) virus vaccine is now widely available, it is still possible to develop shingles if you have been vaccinated. The chicken pox vaccine contains a weakened strain of the live virus. Therefore, although unlikely, it is possible to develop shingles from the weakened version of the varicella virus contained in the vaccine.
Shingles Treatment Options
There is no cure for shingles but there is a vaccine available for adults who have not yet developed the disease. It does not prevent shingles from developing but it does reduce your chances of getting disease. If you do develop shingles after getting the vaccine, you are more likely to have less pain and the rash will clear up faster.
For patients who have already developed shingles, oral antiviral medication is the standard course of treatment. Valacyclovir (Valtrex) and Famcyclovir (Famvir) are more effective than acyclovir in treating the virus and are dosed less frequently. Early treatment with an antiviral medication is also the best means to prevent pain following shingles, a condition called postherpetic neuralgia.
Sometimes pain from postherpetic neuralgia must be controlled with other oral prescription medications that calm the skin nerves irritated by the shingles virus. Commonly used medications for this pain following shingles include gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica). Patients with shingles should avoid contact with certain people with increased susceptibility or suppressed immune systems (pregnant women, chemotherapy patients, HIV individuals) until they have been on successful treatment and the skin lesions have crusted over.
If you suffer from shingles and are in or near the San Diego area, Dr. Melanie Palm can help. Call 858.792.SKIN (7546) to schedule your appointment and discuss your treatment options.