Shingles is a viral infection that affects a small portion of the body, resulting in pain, burning and numbness, followed by the appearance of a red rash after a few days, according to Mayo Clinic. The rash eventually forms blisters that break open and itch. Some individuals also experience chills and fever, headaches and general achiness.
The infection is due to the zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox, according to WebMD. In order to develop shingles, the individual must have had chicken pox in the past. Once the body recovers from chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in the nerves, often for years. In many people, it never reactivates.
There is no cure for shingles, according to MedlinePlus. Available medications help to reduce the length of the outbreak, especially if the individual takes them quickly after onset. Without medication, the pain of shingles can last for months and sometimes years. Doctors recommend a vaccine for individuals over age 60. In certain instances, the patient's doctor recommends the vaccine for individuals between 50 and 59.
When suffering from shingles, a cold compress or a cold shower helps to relieve the pain and itching of the blisters, according to Mayo Clinic. Doctors offer prescription medication, including tricyclic antidepressants, numbing agents and narcotic pain medication to reduce the severe pain.