Officially known as Herpes Zoster in medical circles, shingles starts as a skin rash and then develops into blisters. The condition is painful, and pain is usually the first symptom, followed by tingling, itching, and even burning on one side of the body. The pain and burning sensations make their presence felt even before any rash shows up. The condition will last from fourteen days to one and a half months.
Where do they come from
The Varicella-Zoster virus causes chickenpox. There are some early warning signs of chickenpox, like fever and fatigue. As for the visible signs, first, a rash will appear and become itchy. The rash will develop into blisters filled with fluid and then scab-over.
The rash usually shows up on the upper body, including the face, and will spread to the entire body. It takes approximately one week for all the blisters to become scabs.
The classic symptom of chickenpox is an itchy rash that blisters and scabs. Once people have had chickenpox, the virus never leaves. It hides out in cells and waits. Usually, many years pass until the dormant virus becomes active. And then Herpes Zoster comes into play, and shingles occur. Science has not come up with why the virus reactivates, but a weakened immune system may contribute to the problem.
Is the condition contagious?
A person cannot spread the virus until the rash reaches the fluid-filled blister phase. Even then, someone with infectious shingles cannot give them to another. What they can do is spread chickenpox to someone who hasn’t had them. So always use caution. The infectious stage lasts until the rash becomes crusty, and then one is no longer a threat to infect others.
A few simple steps during the infectious stage will help prevent spreading the virus to others during the contagious phase. These include using a good shingles cream, keeping the rash covered, washing your hands often, and try not touching or scratching the rash.
It’s also a good practice to avoid being around people with compromised immune systems during the infectious phase.
Are there Vaccines
Vaccines can protect people from getting the virus. And experts recommend those over 50, and adults of any age who haven’t had chickenpox should get vaccinated. There are two vaccines available; the first zoster vaccine went into use in 2006.
The vaccine is a watered-down version of the chickenpox virus. Doctors inject the vaccine, and the body’s immune system gets busy fighting the disease. It reduces the chances of getting the disease approximately 50% and takes the odds of long-term nerve damage down by almost 70%.
The second is the recombinant zoster vaccine. This latest vaccine received approval in 2017. It does not use a live form of the chickenpox virus and is over 90% effective in prevention.
So far, science has no cure. When treated quickly with the right plan, the result is faster healing and reduced risk. Some issues are more severe and require stronger measures, so prescriptions may include anticonvulsants, antidepressants, a topical shingles cream or spray to act as a numbing agent, narcotics for severe pain, and corticosteroids and local anesthetics.
Serious issues that linger
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is one of the most painful conditions for people who suffer from this condition. This chronic pain lingers for three to five weeks after the infection. PHN usually affects older adults.
The reason is older folks often have a compromised immune system. Pain covers the same area attacked during the illness. What causes this second effort is nerve damage that occurred during the original bout of the condition.
Doctors treat PHN with over-the-counter medications, prescription painkillers, anticonvulsants, and sometimes antidepressants. And some sufferers get better without treatment.