What Is Shingles?
Shingles are a viral infection that provokes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur everywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single stipe of blisters that covers either the left or the right side of your torso.
Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus which is a similar virus that causes chickenpox. After you have had chickenpox, the virus lies lethargic in nerve tissue near your spinal cord as well as the brain. Times later, the virus may reactive as shingles.
Shingles is not a life-threatening disease, but it can be very painful. Vaccines can help lessen the risk of shingles. Early medication can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the possibility of complications. The most obvious complication is postherpetic neuralgia, which causes shingles pain for a long time after your blisters have removed.
Singles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus the related virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who’s had chickenpox may produce shingles. After you heal from chickenpox, the virus invades your nervous system and lies dormant for years.
Eventually, it may reactivate and travel onward nerve pathways to your skin producing shingles. But not everyone who’s had chickenpox will produce shingles.
The cause for shingles is unclear but it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older. Shingles are also common in order adults and in people who have impaired immune systems.
Varicella-zoster is a part of a group of viruses called herpes viruses, which include the viruses that generate cold sores and genital herpes. Because of this, shingles are also recognized as herpes zoster. But the virus that induces chickenpox and shingles is not the identical virus responsible for cold sores or genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection.
The sign and symptoms of shingles normally affect only a small section of one side of your body. These signs and symptoms may involve:
- Pain, burning, numbness
- Sensitivity to touch
- A red rash that creates a few days after the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that burst open and crust over
Some people likewise experience:
- Sensitivity to light
Pain is normally the first symptom of shingles. For some, it can be great. Depending on the area of the pain, it can sometimes be overlooked as a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Some people feel shingles pain without ever developing a rash.
Most usually, the shingles rash develops as a stripe of blisters that wraps around unless the left or right side of your torso. Sometimes the shingles rash happens around one eye or on one side of the neck or face.
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect shingles, but particularly in the following situations:
- The burning and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to lasting eye damage.
- You are 60 or older because age significantly raises your risk of complications.
- You or someone in your family has a depleted immune system due to cancer, medications, or chronic illness.
- The rash is extensive and painful.
Although there is no cure for shingles, various treatment options are available. Timely effective treatment can aid prevents complications, such as chronic nerve pain. A doctor may prescribe medical treatments, such as antivirals, to combat the infection and topical ointments to help reduce inflammation and pain. People can also control the symptoms of shingles with at-home remedies.
A doctor can manage shingles with the following prescription medications:
- Antivirals like acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.
- A corticosteroid such as prednisone to decrease inflammation
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, to reduce pain
- Tricyclic antidepressants to lessen long term pain
- Topical pain relievers that include lidocaine for pain relief
Shingles diseases usually go away within 2-4 weeks. Antiviral treatment can aid speed up this process. The dosage will depend on the particular medication, but people will usually take antivirals three to five times each day for about a week.
Although it is not a treatment, the shingles vaccine can inhibit a person from getting shingles in the first place. The food and drug administration has accepted two shingles vaccines for adults aged 50 years and older: Zostavax and Shingrix. The CDC suggests the newer Shingrix vaccine over Zostavax because it is more than 90 % effective and presents long-lasting protection.