Can Shingles Cause Severe Headache? Comprehensive View and Treatment

As a wee tot, your session with chickenpox presumably didn’t bother you too much. Perhaps you were even too green to remember having those red, itchy dots everywhere. Even if you do, the chickenpox meant skipping school, playing connect-the-dots with anti-itch cream, slurping soup, and watching cartoons.

Want to hear some ghastly news? That same virus is still living latent in your body, presently. It’s expected that as many as 1 in 3 people will experience an outbreak of chickenpox as an adult, but it transforms into shingles. We can blame all this pain and scratching on the varicella-zoster virus which causes both chickenpox and the shingles.

Here is all you need to know about this troublesome topic.

Overview of Herpes Zoster

The varicella-zoster virus is a vicious microbe that causes chickenpox and herpes zoster.

Herpes zoster is also known as shingles and is characterized by:

  • Skin discomfort including pain, numbness, burning, tingling, and/or itching
  • Red rash (starts a few days after inaugural pain)
  • Sensitivity to touch (even clothes may be uncomfortable)
  • Blisters filled with fluid
  • Fever
  • Light sensitivity
  • Fatigue

Adults that incurred chickenpox as children are subject to shingles outbreak in adulthood with a tremendous risk after the age of 50.

Can Shingles Cause Severe Headaches?

A signifying feature of shingles infection is in your head, literally. On top of all the other dreadful symptoms, shingles cause relentless headaches in a percentage of victims.

A mild to a moderate headache is commonplace at the onset of shingles, but a few unfavorable chosen ones have debilitating pain in their temples partnered with an acute sensitivity to light.

Shingles Headache a Comprehensive View

The headaches can be so piercing they are mixed up with migraines. This happened to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, as fans witnessed in his Twitter updates. He had to be quarantined from his newborn and wife until antibiotics cleared up the outbreak.

Sufferers have described shingles headache a comprehensive view as stabbing pain near the eye, paired with nausea, and dull pain in between episodes. One woman described the onset of the headache as “pins and needles” that progressed into stabs like a knife for 5 to 10 minutes each episode.

Shingles Headache Treatment

Untreated, the viral infection can resolve itself in approximately a month. But the symptoms are so painful, you might prefer to seek medical attention to lessen the blow. Plus, the virus has the potential to progress into severe headaches and even loss of eyesight.

As with all viruses, a direct cure isn’t available, but you can lessen the symptoms and shorten the duration with shingles headache treatment. Your doctor may prescribe pain medication to address the headaches. A less prevalent approach is anti-depressant medications like Aventyl and Cymbalta that have shown promising results for reducing accompanying nerve issues that contribute to headaches.

What are Vaccine Side Effects?

There are two vaccinations for shingles to prevent an outbreak: Zoster vaccine live (approved in 2007) and Recombinant zoster vaccine (in use since 2017) are both legitimate shots to protect the at-risk population. Brand name Shingrix is one of the latter and the top recommendation from the CDC for shingles vaccines. The CDC recommends the vaccine for adults over the age of 50 that have had chickenpox at some time in their lifetime. The organization estimates that 99% of elderly adults have had a chickenpox outbreak in their childhood, even if they don’t remember.

The vaccine side effects are mild for most patients and include:

  • Soreness and redness at the injection site
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Stomach Pain
  • Fever

For most people, the after-effects of the vaccine cleared up in 2 to 3 days from the booster. The formula does not include the preservative thimerosal, for those concerned with mercury poisoning.

Medication for Shingles Relief

Pharmaceutical interventions can slow down the progression and severity of a shingles outbreak. The virus lives dormant in your body at all times, throughout your life, so there is no complete cure. Taking medication for shingles relief within the first 72 hours of an initial flare-up can dramatically shorten the length and annoyance of the condition.

Popularly prescribed drugs include anti-viral meds like:

Doctors recommend adding a NSAID like Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve to reduce swelling and inflammation.

There are also topical medicines that numb the skin or fight inflammation like:

  • Capsaicin Cream. This reduces substance P in your body, the element that sends pain signals to your brain. Be very careful not to get this in your eyes or any membrane to avoid burning sensations as this ointment is derived from the active ingredient in chili peppers.
  • Lidocaine. This temporarily numbs the surface of the application site. It can be a miracle for getting through the day when even your shirt touching your chest is excruciatingly painful. Wash hands immediately before and after using a cream with this numbing substance. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes afterward because those areas are extra sensitive and quick to absorb ointment. A numb tongue is unpleasant, as trips to the dentist may have taught you.

 

 

Article References:

  1. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/infectious-diseases/herpesviruses/herpes-zoster
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/shingles/symptoms-causes/syc-20353054
  3. https://www.self.com/story/lin-manuel-miranda-migraine-shingles
  4. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/crira/2015/402015/
  5. https://www.verywellhealth.com/shingles-signs-and-symptoms-48650
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/index.html
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/shingles/public/shingrix/index.html
  8. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/index.html
  9. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/understanding-shingles-treatment#1
  10. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-6279-valacyclovir+oral.aspx
  11. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-940-zovirax+oral.aspx
  12. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-941-acyclovir+oral.aspx
  13. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-4181/capsaicin-topical/details
  14. https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-76896/lidocaine-hc-topical/details

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