Diagnosis of Chickenpox & Shingles

Chickenpox and shingles are diagnosed by clinical examination and symptoms. Although not routine, definitive diagnosis of varicella-zoster virus can be obtained by culturing infected cells.

Chickenpox & Shingles Treatment

Treatment options for shingles include oral medication such as valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famciclovir (Famvir). For severe infections and in immunosuppressed patients, intravenous medication may be administered in the hospital.

With chickenpox, an important part of treatment is symptomatic relief from itching. Calamine or similar anti-itching lotions can be applied. Oatmeal baths and aloe vera gel offer some relief. Refrigerating the lotions can aid relief because the cool sensation helps control the itching. It is important to keep fingernails short, especially in young children, to minimize potential scarring and secondary bacterial infection from scratching.

Initiating oral treatment within 72 hours of the onset of shingles can minimize pain and shorten the course of the outbreak. Sometimes pain medication is prescribed.

Although the drugs used to treat shingles can lessen the severity and duration of the condition, approximately 20 percent of patients diagnosed with shingles later develop a painful chronic condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Sep 2000

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015