Have you ever had shingles? Shingles is a type of painful skin rash. Unknowingly to most of us, it is caused by a common virus. Read on to know more about this condition.
Facts about Shingles
As mentioned previously, shingles is a painful skin rash which appears as a strip or a band on a small area of the body. Surprisingly, this is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus, otherwise known as the herpes zoster virus. This infection is common among older people and adults who have weak immune systems due to disease, use of medications, stress and injuries.
So how does shingles occur? This illness starts when the virus penetrates your body after a bout of chickenpox. This virus goes to sleep or is dormant in your nerve roots. When the immune system gets weak or when there is aging or disease, the virus wakes up and causes a shingles rash. The entire process of doing this is still unknown, when the virus becomes active again and instead of causing chickenpox it causes shingles. Shingles is not contagious, yet a person who has shingles can infect someone and cause chickenpox in that other person.
A person who has shingles may at first feel a headache or may have certain sensitivity to light. There may also be flu-like symptoms with or without fever. There may be unexplained fatigue. Then the rash starts with itching, burning or tingling in a certain area, turning further into a strip or small area of rash after a few days. The rash follows a nerve pattern, also termed as a dermatome. It is usually located at one side of the body. If it is located in the centre or in the midline of the body, most likely it’s not singles. The most common location is the chest or the back.
The rash further develops into blisters that form a cluster. These blisters fill with fluid and further forms crusts. After two to four weeks, the blisters may heal but they may leave scars. In some people, the rash may be mild while in some people, the rash may not be visible. Typically, the rashes disappear within 7 to 10 days and resolves within 4 weeks.
If you have been diagnosed with shingles, you should over your rash and wash your hands every now and then so that you cannot spread the infection. Remember that you are contagious as long as blisters and ulcers are present. Also, avoid people who have not been vaccinated with the chickenpox vaccine and pregnant women as well as those with a weak immune system. People who are also at risk of acquiring shingles are people who have cancers, autoimmune disorders, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, and a history of chickenpox. If shingles affects the face or near the eyes, you should seek medical help immediately. Shingles affecting the eyes may result to loss of vision.
Treatment of Shingles
Shingles can be treated with antiviral medications however the medication does not directly kill the virus but they help slow down the virus and make the person recover fast. These antiviral medications should begin early, within 72 hours after the onset of the rash. Pain medications are prescribed because shingles can be very, very painful. Usually, there are no complications after shingles however some people may develop a painful condition over the years known as postherpetic neuralgia. This pain can last between a few months to a year.
There is now a shingles vaccine that can decrease your risk of having shingles and its complications. This vaccine is available for people who are 50 years old or older. People who already had experienced shingles before can still get the vaccine. This is given by your doctor.
You can read more about other skin problems by browsing our other articles on this site.