• 2019 GAPNA Pharmacology Conference: Contemporary Pharmacology and Prescribing in Older AdultsJoin us at the 2019 GAPNA Pharmacology Conference:
    Contemporary Pharmacology and Prescribing in Older Adults

    March 28-30, 2019, Chicago Hilton, Chicago, IL.

    Earn up to 11.5 CNE hours.


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  • Poster PresentationCALL FOR: Podium and Poster Abstracts

    For the 37th GAPNA Annual Conference
    at the Paris Hotel
    Las Vegas, Oct. 2-5, 2019

    GAPNA members are invited to submit an abstract about their innovative work, that should enrich the APRN's knowledge and/or enhance the care of an older adult.

    Submit by March 15, 2019!

  • W A N T E D   G A P N A   L E A D E R S!
    Call for Nominations!

    Have you ever considered stepping forward, accepting the challenge and volunteering for a position on the 2019 National Board of Directors? Register online NOW by April 1, 2019!

    Step Up - NOW is the Time! Register Here>

  • Gerontology Resources for APRNs in Acute and Emergent Care Settings ToolkitCareer Center

    NEW! The goal of the Gerontology Resources for APRNs in Acute and Emergent Care Settings (“Acute Care Resource Guide”) is to make geriatric and gerontological content easily accessible to those caring for older adults in higher acuity care settings.

    Learn more about the toolkit

  • FREE continuing education credit is available for the following session:

    "Diastolic Heart Failure Management"

    (session captured at the GAPNA 2017 Annual Conference)

    For Jan/Feb 2019 - Get Your Free CNE Now!

  • Poster PresentationONLINE NOW:

    2018 GAPNA Conference Poster Presentations

    Note the latest trends in the care, education, and research of the older adult population.


    View the 2018 Poster Presentations from the Annual Conference!

Patient FAQs - Shingles

NIHSeniorHealth.gov, the website for older adults, makes aging-related health information easily accessible for family members and friends seeking reliable, easy-to-understand online health information. Health topics include general background information, open-captioned videos, quizzes, and frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Below are FAQs regarding shingles.

What are shingles?

Shingles (also called varicella-zoster) are a painful skin disease caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. They are distinctive because it affects only one side of the body. The early signs of shingles usually develop in three stages: severe pain or tingling, possibly itchy rash, and blisters that look like chickenpox.

Who gets shingles?

The rash usually appears a few days after the
patient becomes aware of the tingling and
burning pain that signal a shingles outbreak.

In the early stages of shingles, blisters start
to appear in the rash area.

Shingles are very common. Fifty percent of all Americans will experience shingles by the time they are age 80. While shingles occur in people of all ages, they are most common in 60-80 year-olds. In fact, one out of every three people 60 years or older will get shingles.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

The first symptoms usually include burning, itching, or tingling sensations on the back, chest, or around the rib cage or waist. In other cases, the face or eye area is involved. The affected area can become extremely painful. This is when most people go to a health care provider to find out what is causing the pain.

Some people report feeling feverish and weak during the early stages. Usually within 48-72 hours, a red, blotchy rash develops on the affected area. The rash erupts into small blisters that resemble chickenpox. The blisters tend to be clustered in one specific area, rather than scattered all over the body like chickenpox.

The torso or face is the part most likely to be affected, but on occasion, shingles break out in the lower body. The burning sensation in the rash area is often accompanied by shooting pains.

After the blisters erupt, the open sores take 1-2 weeks to crust over. The sores are usually gone within another 2 weeks. The pain may diminish somewhat, but it often continues for months – and can go on for years.

How are shingles treated?

Treatment with antiviral medications can reduce the severity of the nerve damage and speed healing. But to be effective, they must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears.

If you suspect you have shingles, see your health care provider within 72 hours of the first sign of the rash. At the early stage of shingles, a health care provider will usually prescribe antiviral pills. These antiviral medicines include acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famcyclovir.

Your health care provider may also prescribe drugs to relieve pain. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.

Patients with long-term pain may also be treated with numbing patches, tricyclic antidepressants, and gabapentin, an antiseizure medication. The shingles vaccine is not recommended if you have active shingles or pain that continues after the rash is gone.

While these treatments can reduce the symptoms of shingles, they are not a cure. The antivirals do weaken the virus and its effects, but the outbreak still tends to run its course. Good hygiene, including daily bathing, can help prevent bacterial infections. It is a good idea to keep fingernails clean and well-trimmed to reduce scratching.

Is there a vaccine to prevent shingles?

Yes. In May 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent shingles in people age 60 and older. The vaccine is designed to boost the immune system and protect older adults from getting shingles later on.

Even if you have had shingles, you can still get the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no maximum age for getting the vaccine, and only a single dose is recommended. The shingles vaccine is not recommended if you have active shingles or pain that continues after the rash is gone.

Talk with your health care professional if you have questions about the vaccine.

Archive of All Patient Faqs

More about the NIH:

The NIHSeniorHealth.gov site was developed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIHSeniorHealth features authoritative and up-to-date health information from the NIH. In addition, the American Geriatrics Society provides expert and independent review of some of the material found on this website. New topics are added to the site on a regular basis.

Added July 13, 2017: A notice posted on the NIHseniorHealth.gov Website:
NIHseniorHealth.gov will be retired on August 1, 2017. To continue finding reliable, up-to-date health and wellness information for older adults from the National Institutes of Health, we’re referring you to https://medlineplus.gov/ or https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/.