Shingles, also called herpes zoster, can take a very long time to heal and cause great discomfort, irritation and pain. Shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus. Most people get chickenpox as children. The virus then stays in your body and can resurface as shingles during your adult years.
Shingles takes such a long time to heal because there is no cure for it. If a doctor catches the virus early enough, he can help treat it, but the virus must run its course, taking sometimes a month or longer to heal. There is a vaccine for the varicella-zoster virus but it is only given to people who are 60 years or older.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a doctor may prescribe Valtrex, Zovirax or Famvir to treat shingles. He may also recommend an over-the-counter or prescription pain medication to deal with pains from the rash while you wait for it to clear on its own. Medication only helps with the results of shingles, not the virus itself.
Shingles is a painful and very itchy rash. Before it develops, there are typically pains, itching and/or burning in the area–usually on the face or body. The rash will start to blister, sometimes badly, after a few days. The pain from shingles can remain for weeks, months or even years after the rash has gone away.
According to the CDC, other symptoms that may develop with shingles are upset stomach, fever, headaches and chills.
Unlike chickenpox, you cannot catch shingles from someone else. But the virus that causes shingles can be passed to someone who has never had chickenpox. That person may then develop chickenpox but he would not develop shingles.
According to the CDC, shingles can lead to more serious problems, although rarely. These include hearing issues, blindness, encephalitis, pneumonia or, if untreated, death. Shingles can return as the virus lays dormant in your body. Dealing with shingles takes patience, perseverance and time.