Shingles affect only one part of the body, that could be the left or the right. The characteristic symptom of this disease is a rash that often occurs in the form of a band of blisters. Older adults and people with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to this condition. It may result in complications which may include vision loss, problems with the nervous system, skin infections, and damage of the nerve fibers causing pain.
It is the varicella-zoster virus that is responsible for this condition. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus does not leave the body, but goes into a state of dormancy and lies hidden in the nerve roots. In some people, this virus remains in its inactive state forever, but in some, it gets activated. When it gets activated, it takes the route of the nerves that lead to the skin, thereby eventually causing shingles. Experts are not sure about what causes the virus to get activated; however, they speculate that low immunity may be a contributing factor. Also, it should be noted that this virus belongs to the genus Herpesvirus. Due to this, shingles is also known as herpes zoster.
Many people remain dubious about the pathogenic capacity of shingles. Technically, it is not contagious. A person who is affected by shingles can pass on the infection to a person who hasn't had chickenpox in his life. So, if a person is infected by chickenpox once, then he may or may not develop shingles. A person who has already had chickenpox, will not get this infection from a shingles-affected person. So, this infers that shingles cannot be transmitted directly, but the varicella-zoster can.
Symptoms and Treatment
The common signs and symptoms of this condition include:
- Pain that is accompanied by a burning sensation, numbness, or tingling
- The pain is followed by a skin rash, as already mentioned in this article.
- The blisters developed are fluid-filled, and would break open and crust over.
- Other symptoms include itching, fever, chills, headache, and pain.
Shingles is one of those conditions that resolve on its own without any treatment. However, with treatment, the symptoms can be relieved, risk of complications can be reduced, and recovery can be hastened. Its medication should be administered within the first 72 hours of the development of the first sign of the condition. For some people the pain accompanied with this condition may become intolerable. In order to deal with it, the doctors may recommend pain killers.
The best method to manage this condition is to take rest, and avoid strenuous activities. Patients are also advised to exercise relaxation techniques to avoid stress. Cool showers, and anti-itch topical medications can also be used to relieve the pain and discomfort.