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Shingles: A Painful and Debilitating Virus that Strikes the Elderly 
by Mary M. Alward August 08, 2005

Diagnosing Shingles

Shingles are very hard for your doctor to diagnose before the rash breaks out. The symptoms can be so excruciatingly painful that it may be mistaken for appendicitis, gallstones, kidney stones, pleurisy or a heart attack. The misdiagnosis depends on where the affected nerves are located on the body.

Doctors and other health care professionals can differentiate shingles from chickenpox and other rashes by the way the blisters appear on the body. Shingles always forms a band or cluster, and appear only on one side. In addition to the placement and appearance of the rash, doctors often take a swab or scraping from the blisters and send it to a laboratory to be tested.


Goals of Treatment

Your doctor will try his best to prescribe medications that will shorten the duration of the eruptive stage, relieve you of pain and discomfort, shorten the duration of the postherpetic neuralgia stage and speed the healing of shingles blisters.


Prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs and anti viral drugs may be given to the shingles patient. It’s important to keep the sufferer as comfortable as possible and reduce the risk of infection. Symptoms and pain of shingles can be largely reduced by the prescribing of anti-viral medications.


  • When shingles are in the eruptive stage, ask your doctor how to get lots of rest and a good night’s sleep. As quickly as possible, continue daily activities.

  • Reduce pain by applying a cool cloth or compress to blisters and take a cool bath at least once a day. Do not rub shingles. Avoid warm or hot baths and exposure to the sun, as heat can cause shingles to itch severely and incessantly.

  • Cover the shingles site with a sterile gauze bandage after cleansing the site or bathing.

  • Wear loose fitting clothing to reduce the irritation of blisters.

  • Trim fingernails as short as possible to avoid scratching, which may cause a bacterial infection.



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