Talking to Your Doctor About Shingles

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You have a unique medical history. It is important to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with shingles. You can take an active role in your care by talking openly and regularly with your doctor.

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and ask questions you might not have thought to ask.
  • Write your questions ahead of time so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you understand what was said. Ask for information to be repeated, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to discuss whatever is on your mind or to ask how you can obtain more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
  • Am I contagious to others?
  • What should I do to avoid passing the virus to others?
  • Do I need to avoid people who are ill while I have shingles?
  • If I’ve never had chickenpox, would you recommend that I receive the chickenpox vaccine?
  • Are there any other precautions I can take to avoid getting shingles?
  • Should I consider getting the vaccine that can reduce my risk of developing shingles?
  • If I get shingles, could it mean that I have some other condition that has weakened my immune system?
  • What treatments can relieve my pain and discomfort?
  • What treatments can help shorten the length of this illness?
  • What treatments can help prevent complications, including postherpetic neuralgia?
  • About your medications:
    • What are their benefits?
    • What are their side effects?
    • Might they interact with any other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements that I’m taking for other conditions?
    • Do I need to worry about lightheadedness or drowsiness while I’m taking these medications?
    • Are there any activities I should avoid while taking these medications?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary treatments that might relieve my symptoms or prevent the development of complications?
  • If I get shingles on my face, what can I do to help avoid getting an infection in my eye?
  • What signs indicating an eye infection should I look for?
  • How likely am I to suffer from complications of shingles, such as postherpetic neuralgia?
  • What treatments can you offer me if I do develop complications?

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/07/2014 -
  • NINDS shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/shingles.htm . Updated January 10, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.

  • Shingles. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/shingles . Accessed May 30, 2013.

  • Stankus SJ, Dlugopolski M, Packer D. Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Am Fam Physician . 2000;61(8). Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0415/p2437.html . Accessed May 30, 2013.

  • Zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/ . Updated May 20, 2013. Accessed May 30, 2013.