Many people associate discomfort, pain and fatigue with shingles. While it’s true that most, if not all, symptoms of shingles are uncomfortable, is it safe to say that shingles always cause pain?
The answer to this question is relative and largely based on the infected person’s tolerance for pain. Analyzing the symptoms of shingles and how most people respond to them can help us accurately assess whether shingles are always painful.
Symptoms of Shingles
Shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus, known as the herpes-varicella zoster virus, can lie dormant until it’s reactivated by stress, sickness or trauma. Once activated, the herpes-varicella zoster virus produces numerous symptoms that usually progress from slightly to very uncomfortable. But don’t forget, this is all relative to the individual.
Like most viral infections, shingles begins with vague, nonspecific symptoms. These include: fatigue, low-grade fever and possible loss of appetite. Most individuals are not in pain at the beginning of the illness. About three to five days after the start of symptoms, pain begins. Small clusters of fluid-filled blisters appear on the skin and eventually become painful, itchy lesions. These lesions are usually only found on one side of the body or face.
Pain of Symptoms
These lesions cause pain that many medical professionals label as severe. When asked to rate their pain using the 0 to 10 pain scale, 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain imaginable, most shingles patients express that their pain is somewhere between a 6 and a 10. Even after the lesions are completely healed, the pain can continue for several days or weeks.
Pain, however, is subjective. While the symptoms of shingles are usually similar in most patients, the body’s response to the pain differs from individual to individual. Access to adequate medical attention and proper pain management can help to relieve or lessen the amount of discomfort. If shingles are diagnosed early, treatment can be implemented and the pain experienced by the sufferer can be greatly reduced. While shingles is running its course, certain measures such as medication, adequate rest and distraction from the illness can help relieve pain.
Avoiding Symptoms and Pain
The only way to avoid the painful symptoms of shingles is to avoid getting shingles in the first place. About 50% of those over the age of 80 are likely to get shingles if not vaccinated. The CDC recommends that older adults get the Shingrix vaccine which helps to increase immunity to the herpes-varicella zoster virus. Proactively protecting oneself is the only way to avoid the painful symptoms associated with shingles.
Shingles vaccination can help ensure you stay healthy throughout your life. Schedule your appointment at a local Passport Health today.
Written for Passport Health by Ese Agboh