What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The rash can occur anywhere in the body; however, it most often appears on the left and right side of the torso as blisters. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox – the varicella-zoser virus. If you have ever had chickenpox, the virus can reactivate as shingles years later.
Shingles is not a life-threatening conditions, but is is extremely painful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) almost 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. will get shingles during their lifetime. While most people will get shingles only once, it is possible to get it a second or even third time. The risk of getting shingles increases while you get older.
What Are The Symptoms of Shingles?
The symptoms of shingles will usually only affect a small section of the body. Some if the symptoms include: sensitivity to touch, red rash, itching, fluid-filled blisters, pain, burning, numbness and tingling. Some people experience headaches, fatigue, and fever. The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is severe pain in the areas where the shingles rash occurred. Rashes normally occur on the left or right side of the torso, but they can occur around one eye, neck, face and even the ears.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and it is called the varicella-zoster virus. Any person who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus can enter the nervous system and lie dormant for years. It can reactivate and travel along the nerves on the skin and produce shingles. However, not everyone who has had chickenpox will get shingles. The reason why shingles appears is unknown, but it may be due to lower immunity to infections as people grow older.
What Are The Treatments For Shingles?
The only way to avoid getting shingles is getting vaccinated. The CDC wants healthy adults of 50 years and older to get two doses of the shingles vaccine Shingrix®. If you suffer from shingles, there are several antiviral medicines available including acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. As mentioned above, shingles can be very painful. Pain medication can be used to mitigate some of the pain. Other remedies to relive some of the itching include wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloid oatmeal baths. If you think you might have shingles, call you healthcare provider as soon as possible.