What is Shingles?

Herpes zoster (shingles) is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. Shingles can affect people of all ages. It is common in adults over the age of 50 years. It is more common in individuals of all ages with conditions that weaken the immune system. The condition occurs in people who have had chickenpox.


Signs and symptoms:

Shingles begans with unusual sensations, called parasthesias, such as burning, itching, or tingling in an area of skin on one side of the body.  Some people develop a fever, a feeling of being unwell,or a headache.  Within two days , a rash of blisters appears on one side of the body.  The trunk is usually affected by the shingles rash.  The rash can occur on the face, near the eyes and can permanrntly effect vision.  The pain can be mild or severe, and has a sharp burning, stabbing pain with burning quality.  Within three to four days, the shingles blisters can become open sores “ulcers”.  These ulcers can sometimes become infected with bacteria.

Is shingles contagious?

It is not possible to catch shingles from another person.  However, some people can become infected with the virus itself.

Risk factors:

Age. Shingles is most common in people older than 50.  The risk increases with age.  Some experts estimate that half the people who live to age 85 will experience shingles at some point in their lives.

Diseases.  Diseases that weaken the immune system , such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, can increase your risk of shingles.

Cancer treatments.  Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy can lower your resistance to disease and may trigger shingles. 

Medications.  Drugs to prevent rejection of transplanted organs can increase your risk of shingles.  Drugs such as prolonged use of steriod, such as prednisone.

Shingles.  Treatment of shingles usually include a combination of antiviral and pain-relieving medications.  Creams and gels might increase a secondary bacterial skin infection.  Keep the areas clean and dry.

Complications of shingles.  Eye complications, eye inflammation. ear inflammation, postherpetic neuralgia,pain, skin infections,  Prescription drugs that keep shingles under control are: zovirax, valtrex, famvir, and lidocaine cream.

While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can be very painful.  Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.


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