Symptoms and Treatments of Shingles

You have probably heard of the common herpes virus that causes contagious blisters on and around the lips. But another type, called Shingles, causes these painful and unpleasant blisters to form elsewhere on the body.

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Also known as herpes zoster, Shingles is a viral infection that brings about painful skin rashes that can appear anywhere on the body. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that leads to chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, usually when they’re young children, the virus can remain dormant in the body and may reactivate many years later. If this occurs, shingles will appear.

It does not happen to everyone who had Chickenpox in the past, but those that do get it have to stay home and take medical treatment in order to prevent infecting others, resulting in many lost days of work and social interaction. This article will explore the symptoms, treatments, prevention measures, risk factors and other important info associated with shingles.

Symptoms of Shingles

The most common symptom of shingles is a painful rash that usually appears in the form of a band or a strip of blisters on one side of the body. This is followed by the appearance of a red rash, which turns into fluid-filled blisters within a few days.

Ordinary rashes occur due to a bite, burn or an allergic reaction and usually go away on their own fairly quickly, but Shingle rashes are different. These typically follow the path of a nerve and can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most commonly found on the torso or face. Before the rash appears, individuals may experience tingling, itching, or a burning sensation in the affected area. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue, and sensitivity to light.

Risk Factors

Several factors can increase the risk of developing shingles. The primary risk factor is having had chickenpox in the past, as the virus remains dormant in the body and can reactivate at any time in the future. Other risk factors include:

~ Age: Being over the age of 50. This is due to the fact that, by midlife, the body’s natural defenses begin to reduce and susceptibility to illness and injury increase.

~ Weakened immune system: People with weakened or no immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing cancer treatment.

~ Stress: High levels of stress can weaken the immune system as well, and make it vulnerable to shingles and many other diseases.

~ Certain medications: such as steroids or immunosuppressants, which can trigger a reawakening of the virus.

~ Physical trauma: Injury or surgery can trigger the reactivation of the VZV.

Diagnosis

Shingles is typically diagnosed based on the appearance of the rash and its accompanying symptoms. In some cases, a healthcare professional may take a sample of the fluid from the blisters for laboratory testing to confirm the diagnosis. It is essential to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect you have shingles to receive appropriate treatment, as it will get worse if neglected.

Treatment

The primary goals of shingles treatment are to reduce pain, promote healing, and prevent complications. Treatment options may include:

1. Antiviral medications: These medications can help reduce the severity and duration of the infection. They work best when started within 72 hours of the rash appearing.

2. Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can help alleviate the pain associated with shingles.

3. Topical creams: Topical creams containing capsaicin or lidocaine may provide temporary relief from pain and itching.

4. Antiviral eye drops: If the rash affects the eye, antiviral eye drops may be prescribed to prevent complications.

5. Calamine lotion: Applying calamine lotion to the rash can help soothe itching.

Self-Care and Home Remedies

In addition to medical treatment, there are several self-care measures and home remedy tips that can help manage the symptoms of shingles and speed up recovery.

Keep the rash clean. Gently wash the rash with mild soap and water to prevent infection. Apply cool, wet compresses or take cool baths to soothe the affected area. Also, try to get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy diet, as this will strengthen the immune system and thereby help the body to recover.
It’s important to resist the urge to scratch the rash, in order to prevent infection and scarring. Additionally, be sure to wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothing made from soft fabrics to avoid further irritation.

Prevention

Overall, the very best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated. The shingles vaccine, also known as the herpes zoster vaccine, is recommended for adults aged 50 years and above, because it poses more potential dangers for them. The vaccine can reduce the risk of developing shingles and can also help reduce the severity of the infection if it does occur.

Additionally, practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding close contact with individuals who have active shingles, can also help reduce the risk of transmission.

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