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Shingles – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Contagious, Pictures

Written by Dr.Mary
IN THIS ARTICLE:

What is Shingles?

Shingles is an infection caused by a virus that triggers a very painful rash. Shingles can develop anywhere on the body but it more often develops a blister band wrapped from the middle line of the back round one side of the chest to the breastbone.


This disease is triggered by the virus known as varicella-zoster which is the exact same virus causing chickenpox in children. After an individual has chickenpox, this virus stays dormant in tissues of the nerves near the brain and spinal cord. In later years, the virus reactivates as shingles.

Although this is not a condition that is life-threatening, shingles still is extremely painful. Vaccines may aid in reducing the shingle risk, while treatment that is early may help to shorten the infection as well as lessen any complications.

Shingles Symptoms

The symptoms and signs of shingles normally affect a very small section on one side of the body. These symptoms and signs can include:

  • Burning, numbness, pain or tingling
  • Red rash beginning several days after pain develops
  • Blisters that are fluid-filled, burst open then crust over
  • Itching

Many individuals will also experience:

  • Chills and fever
  • General achiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

The pain is normally the symptom of shingles that is first noticed. For many, this pain can be so intense. Depending on the site of the pain, it often is incorrectly mistaken for a problem or symptom involving the lungs, kidneys or heart. Many individuals can have shingle pain without developing the customary rash.

Commonly, the rash of shingles occurs as a blister band that wraps around one side of the chest from the spine to the breastbone. Often the rash of shingles happens around 1 eye or on one side of the face or neck.

Individuals should contact their physician immediately if they suspect they have shingles but especially in the below situations:

  • The rash and pain happens near the eyes. When left untreated, the infection may lead to eye damage that is permanent
  • You or anyone in the family has an immunity system that is weak due to chronic illness, cancer, or certain medications.
  • The rash is painful as well as widespread

Risk factors of shingles include the following:

  • Had chickenpox – Any individual who has ever had a case of chickenpox has a risk of developing shingles.
  • Age – Shingles is more common in individuals by the age of 50 and that risk rises with age.
  • Weakened immune system – Individuals with immune systems that are weakened have a greater risk for shingles being triggered.

This weakening can be caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Long-term usage of steroids, for instance prednisone
  • Medication developed to prevent organ rejections after a transplant

Common complications caused by shingles may range from very mild to very severe, from postherpetic neuralgia to skin infections that are minor:

Postherpetic neuralgia

This is when shingles pain lingers after the blisters have healed.

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Loss of Vision

Shingles developing in or near the eyes can develop infections that are very painful and can result in loss of vision.

Neurological problems

Shingles can be the source of:

  • Encephalitis, brain inflammation
  • Balance and hearing problems
  • Paralysis of the face

Infections of the skin

If the blisters of shingles are not treated properly – skin infections can develop.

Shingles Causes

Shingles is triggered by a virus referred to as varicella-zoster – the precise virus that triggers chickenpox. Any individual who has had chickenpox can cultivate shingles. After an individual recovers from the chickenpox, this virus will enter the nervous system where it lies dormant for years. Then, it can revitalize as well as move along pathways of nerves leading to the skin – creating shingles.

It is unclear why or what triggers the reappearance of this virus. But it could be due to immunity to many infections is lowered as an individual grows older. The problem of shingles is most common in older adults and in individuals who have weakened immune systems.

The virus varicella-zoster belongs to a grouping of viruses called herpes that consists of viruses that causes genital herpes as well as cold sores. Due to this, shingles is also referred to by some people as herpes zoster. But this virus which causes shingles or chickenpox is not the same virus accountable for genital herpes or cold sores, which are sexually transmitted diseases or STDs.

Shingles Treatment

Episodes of shingles normally heals on its own in several weeks, but treatment that is prompt can comfort the pain, hasten the healing as well as reduce complications.

There are antiviral drugs that are helpful when started within 72 hours of the signs of shingles rash developing. Oral antiviral drugs include:

  • Acyclovir – known as Zovirax
  • Valacyclovir – known as Valtrex
  • Famciclovir – known as Famvir

Shingles causes severe pain, so most individuals will need prescription drugs for pain management. They can include:

  • Narcotics such as oxycodone
  • Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline
  • Anticonvulsants such as Neurontin
  • Agents that numb the areas, for instance lidocaine – cream, spray, skin patch or gel

Contagious

Any individual with shingles may pass this varicella-zoster virus on the others who have not had chickenpox. This normally only occurs thru direct interaction with the sores that are open with the rash. When infected, the individual may develop chickenpox, but not shingles.

Chickenpox is a disease that is dangerous for several groups of individuals. A person with shingles is contagious until the shingle blisters scab over. Physical contact should be avoided with:

  • Persons with weak immune systems
  • Pregnant women
  • Newborns

Shingles Pictures

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