Symptoms & Causes of Shingles

a person suffering from shingles

What Are Shingles?

When there are painful rashes on the skin due to the reactivation of the chickenpox virus it is called shingles.

Shingles are caused by a virus named varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes the infection of chickenpox.

Once you get chickenpox it lies near your spinal cord inactivated for years. When after many years this same inactivated virus gets reactivated as shingles.

It can occur anywhere on your body but it mostly occurs as a stripe of a blister around your torso. Anyone who gets it had a case of chickenpox first, often decades earlier. These rashes of chickenpox turn into fluid-filled red blisters. It usually takes a week or more for these itchy blisters to get completely dried out.

Let's Have A Look At The Symptoms of Shingles

Some early signs of shingles are :

  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Chills, fever, and headache
  • Itching
  • Some raised dots with redness on your skin
  • Shooting pain
  • Burning sensation in or under the skin
  • Tingling sensation
  • Upset stomach

Seek immediate advice from the dermatologist if you possess any of the symptoms as there is no cure for shingles. The treatment which is prescribed by the doctor can save you from the complications of the symptoms of shingles. 

Major Causes Of Shingles

When you get infected with the varicella-zoster virus the first thing it brings to you is chickenpox. There is no age bar in having chickenpox as it is prevalent in both youngsters and in adults too. 

After getting you infected with chickenpox the virus settles down itself near the spinal cord and brain in the nerve tissue.

There is no clinical solution to the problem of its reactivation years later when the virus travels to your skin through nerve fibers. When it reaches the skin it got you infected with shingles which are also known as herpes zoster.

The Stages Of Shingles

According to many clinical studies, most shingles cases only last for 3 -5 weeks. After the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, your skin turns itself with

  • Burn
  • Tingle
  • Numbness
  • Itchiness
  • Burn

They usually develop on any of the sides of the body most often on your back, chest, or waist.

In the next 5 days, there is visible redness with severe rashes on that area. In the same area, you will have some fluid-filled blisters which cause severe distress. There may be some symptoms that resemble that of the flu-like fever, headache, or fatigue.

Now in the next 10 days, the blisters start drying up and ultimately form the scabs which will fade away as time passes. There were cases reported when pain is still present even after the scabs fades away. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia.

What Are Risk Factors for Shingles?

If you have a compromised immune system that might trigger the virus. In certain conditions, you are more likely to get virus-like if 

  • You are 50+ in age
  • Under a lot of stress
  • HIV, Cancer, or some other disease that makes your body’s immune system weak.
  • Had a serious physical injury
  • Long use of steroids or some other medicines.

Complications Of Shingles

There are some severe complications of shingles that last for quite a long even after the disappearance of rashes like:

  • Inflammation of the brain or facial paralysis if some nerves get affected.
  • Eye problems
  • Vision loss if the rash is around your eye
  • Severe constant pain

Are Shingles Contagious?

The answer is Yes. People who never get infected with the varicella-zoster virus or have never been vaccinated can be an easy target to get easily infected.

A person is contagious till all the sores on your skin are crusted over. Until then you need to avoid contact with pregnant women either being infected or vaccinated and also with people with weak immune systems and newborns.

Shingles Treatment

Some antiviral drugs can help you greatly to heal faster and can easily cut your risk of having complications. These medicines become more effective when you have them during the first three days of rashness. So you should seek professional dermatologist advice in the first place. The three main medicines are: 

  1. Acyclovir 
  2. Valacyclovir 
  3. Famciclovir 

While treatment for the associated pain include:

  • Anticonvulsant medicines like gabapentin
  • Medicated lotion
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths
  • Some antidepressants like amitriptyline
  • Cool compresses
  • Some numbing medications like lidocaine
  • Some OTC drugs like ibuprofen
  • Some painkillers like codeine

Are Shingles Airborne?

The virus varicella-zoster that is responsible for shingles is not airborne. It can’t be spread from one person to another if someone has shingles, sneezes, coughs or shares some eatables with you.

The only way the virus can catch you is if in any case, you come in contact with an oozing blister of infected shingles. In that, you can have only chickenpox if you have never been infected with it.

Take Away

Though shingles are noncontagious and can only be spread in case you have a compromised immune system or you never had been infected with chickenpox. But there can be certain situations in which the symptoms start becoming severe like vertigo, rashes, buzzing sound in ears, extreme fatigue, dizziness or the face droop, double vision. In such conditions visiting a professional doctor and starting a prescribed treatment is a must.

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