What Are Shingles, And Why Are More People Getting Them?

Shingles is one of the most painful nerve conditions caused by the chicken pox virus. The key to treatment (besides vaccination) is early diagnosis and early intervention.

Larry Ho, MD

September 4, 2008

By MARY JACOBS / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

…Anybody who has had chickenpox can get shingles, and sooner or later a significant number of them will.

“Once you’re infected with chickenpox, the virus is dormant in your body for the rest of your life,” says Dr. Stephen Tyring, clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. But physical or emotional stress, or immune suppression caused by disease or cancer treatment, can trigger an outbreak.

Twenty percent of people who have had chickenpox will go on to have shingles…

… Shingles can’t be cured, but early intervention with antiviral medication can minimize the length and severity of the symptoms. The key word is “early.”

“We’d like to see patients within the first 48 hours after the onset of symptoms,” says Dr. James Luby, professor of internal medicine-infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “But the sooner the better.” More…