Shingles is not a life-threatening disease. However, it is a very painful and uncomfortable condition. This article provides information regarding the causes and symtoms of shingles rash.
Most of us have fallen prey to chickenpox in our childhood. If you had developed chickenpox, chances are you will develop shingles sometime in your life. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, known as ‘varicella-zoster’. Unlike chickenpox, shingles is a painful rash that occurs anywhere on the body. You will mostly spot this rash as a band of blisters. These blisters crop up around the back on one side of the chest up to the breastbone. You need to seek medical treatment as soon as possible as it will help reduce complications arising from the condition.
It is necessary for one to get chickenpox in order develop shingles disease. This is because the virus is not completely destroyed in the body. It tends to retreat and hide within the nervous system for years. When the body’s immune system is weak, the virus gets activated. The exact cause is still unknown, but it is seen affecting adults, especially those with a weak immune system, like older adults. Cancer patients, people with HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, and those who are on chemotherapy or immunosuppressant drugs are at risk of developing shingles.
The symptoms of this viral infection are similar in both men and women. The first sign which is observed is an extremely sensitive and tingling skin. One may feel one section of the body is burning, painful as well as numb.
Red rashes develop around the chest from the spine to the breastbone. A few people also develop rashes around the neck, face, and even thighs. The rash is accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, etc. It is important to seek immediate medical attention in case the rash develops near the eyes as it may lead to permanent eye damage. These rashes later turn into fluid-filled blisters. When the blisters break and form ulcers, they will soon form crusty scabs over them. These scabs will remain on the skin for several weeks and cause intense itching. It is important to refrain from scratching the skin as it may lead to secondary bacterial infection. The blisters contain active virus, and therefore, the infected person is the most contagious at this stage.
The disease lasts for a few weeks and heals on its own. However, it is necessary one takes prompt medical help to reduce the intensity of the rash and avoid further complications. The doctor may recommend antiviral drugs. Also, pain killers maybe advised to reduce the pain. Application of creams, gels, and calamine lotion may help reduce the itching sensation.
Complications may arise as the virus affects the nerves, where it has lay dormant all these years. If the nerve travels down to the eyes, then the virus affects the eye. If the nerve is present around the lower end of the body, then rashes develop over the waist, hips, and thigh region. The virus may also cause postherpetic neuralgia, wherein the nerves get damaged due to the shingles virus infection. This means the infected person may experience chronic shingles pain even after the rash is cured. The pain may resolve itself after several months. In some cases, it may cause ophthalmic zoster that leads to conjunctivitis. It is important to seek medical attention in this case as it may lead to eye damage and may affect the vision. A few people develop shingles in the ears. This leads to ear ache, dizziness, deafness, and in some cases, paralysis of face. This condition is called the Ramsay Hunt syndrome.
You can speak to your doctor about the precautions to be taken during the infection to avoid complications. If you have children or old people in your home, avoid direct contact with them. This is because they have a weak immune system and can easily catch an infection. Children may develop chickenpox, if they had not had it before, and the elderly may develop shingles.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.