Shingles refers to a viral infection causing painful rash and often occurs as a single stripe of sores that wraps around the left or right side of one's chest. It is caused by a virus called Varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox which lies inactive in nerve tissue close to one's spinal cord and brain after one have had chickenpox. The virus may reactivate many years later and develop shingles.
Signs and symptoms
These typically have an effect on only a small side of one's body and include ache, flaming, lack of sensation, a red rash that starts a few days after the pain, itching and fluid filled blisters that break open and crust over. Others experience fatigue, headache, fever and chills and general achiness. Pain is commonly the initial symptom of shingles which can sometimes be powerful. Many people usually mistake such pains for problems that affect the heart, lungs or kidneys. Some victims get shingles ache without ever developing the common rash.
Shingles is caused by the Varicella zoster virus which is also the same virus that causes chickenpox. Any person who has previously been infected with chickenpox stand a greater risk of developing shingles because the virus may enter the nervous system of that person, lie dormant for years before eventually reactivating and travel along nerve pathways to the skin, causing shingles. Shingles are more prone to people with low immune systems and in older adults. An individual with chickenpox should avoid physical contact with anyone with weak immune system, newborns or pregnant women as chickenpox can be dangerous and contagious. A person with shingles can pass the virus to another person who is not immune to chickenpox through direct contact with open sores of the shingles rash.
Anybody who has at any given time had chickenpox can develop shingles. Factors that may exacerbate a person's likelihood to developing shingles include diseases that weaken one's immune system like cancer and HIV/AIDS. Besides, shingles is most common in people older than 50years, undergoing chemotherapy in cancer treatments lowers resistance to diseases and brings shingles; and other medications increase the risk of shingles.
Shingles in or around an eye may lead to vision loss of the affected individual, an inflammation of the brain leading to neurological problems and even bacterial skin infections. Other complications of shingles infection include postherpetic neuralgia where damaged nerve fibers send confused signals of ache from the skin to the brain.
Lifestyle and home remedies
One can manage shingles at home effectively by taking a cool bath or using cool, wet compresses on his or her blisters. This assists in relieving pain and itching that normally accompanies shingle infections.
Shingles can be prevented by two vaccines namely chickenpox Varicella vaccine and the shingles Varicella zoster. The Varicella vaccine commonly known as varivax is routinely used in childhood immunization to prevent chickenpox. It is also recommended for adults who have never had chickenpox. The vaccine reduces the chances of complications, reduces the severity of shingles in individuals. However, for adults of over the age of 50, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended the use of Varicella zoster as the vaccine reduces the course and cruelty of the illness thereby reducing one's risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia. Shingles vaccine is only used as a prevention strategy and not as treatment for individuals who presently have the illness. Notably, the shingles vaccine has live virus thus, not recommended for persons with a weakened immune system.