Herpes Zoster a.k.a Shingles

Herpes Zoster a.k.a Shingles

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection which is capable of precipitating a very painful rash. Shingles can cover a person’s entire body from the midsection of his/her back all the way around to one side of his/her chest. The virus can lay dormant in the nerves of a person for years before finally becoming active and causing this skin infection. There are some cases of shingles that develop serious complications but normally the condition can be handled with treatment.

Shingles is developed by the same virus responsible for chicken pox. After a person gets rid of the chickenpox, the virus stays in the body. The virus travels to the nerves where it sleeps. Shingles appears when the virus wakes up. It is not clear what reactivates or “wakes up” the virus. A short-term weakness in immunity may cause this. Shingles is much less contagious than chickenpox. But a person with shingles can still spread the virus. Anyone who has not had chickenpox can get this virus.

If the virus spreads to someone who has not had it, the person will get chickenpox — not shingles. Newborns and those with a weak immune system have the highest risk of getting the virus from someone who has shingles. This virus spreads when the person has uncovered, open blisters and someone touches the blisters. Once the blisters form scabs, the person is no longer contagious.

The first symptom is usually one-sided pain, tingling, or burning. The pain and burning may be severe and is usually present before any rash appears. Red patches on the skin, followed by small blisters, form in most people. The blisters break, forming small sores that begin to dry and form crusts. The crusts fall off in 2 to 3 weeks. Scarring is rare. The rash usually involves a narrow area from the spine around to the front of the belly area or chest. The rash may involve the face, eyes, mouth, and ears. Other symptoms may also include abdominal pain, fever, chills, genital sores,joint pains, headaches, and swollen glands.

A case of herpes zoster will naturally heal by itself in the majority of cases but treatment can also help alleviate the pain and lessen the chances of any complications. Antiviral medications such as Valtrex, Famvir, and Zovirax can shorten the length of time that symptoms persist and also ease the harshness of symptoms. Anti-inflammatory drugs can handle any swelling linked to shingles and pain relievers can reduce the pain. Prescription narcotics are occasionally utilized when the pain of shingles is extreme. Topical ointments can be employed to treat the blisters from the rash. Postherpetic neuralgia can be dealt with by using pain relievers and sometimes anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs are used to relieve pain from this condition.

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