Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused when the dormant chickenpox virus, which remains in the body of a person, reactivates suddenly, causing a lot of pain. If you had chickenpox during your childhood or as a young adult, you should get information about shingles because the virus can be reactivated in your body at any time. Dr. Maximiliano Velasco explains below what shingles is.
What is shingles?
It is a painful skin rash. It may appear on the face, abdomen, and thorax. It is more common in older adults and people with a weak immune system. It occurs in people who have been infected with the varicella zoster virus, even if that happened during childhood. The virus remains dormant in the nerve roots, but when it wakes up, it produces skin lesions known as herpes zoster or shingles.
Is it a contagious disease?
Shingles per se is not contagious, but when someone encounters a patient who has active skin lesions, chances are that the person can get chickenpox. Shingles can be transmitted only to people who have never had chickenpox or who have not received the chickenpox vaccine.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
Initially, it has burning, pulsating pain and tingling sensations in specific areas of the body. Skin lesions may appear between one to fourteen days after the pain.
What are the causes that can trigger shingles?
Some of the causes are stress, weak immune system, including in-patients receiving chemotherapy treatment or taking steroids.
What consequences or effects can the disease leave in the person?
The consequence that the disease brings is the pain that can last for months or years.
What type of treatment should the patient follow?
The treatment that a person should follow is taking antiviral medicines and analgesics.
Can the disease be prevented?
Prevention is the key. Therefore, it is important to follow the recommendation to get the vaccine, and get a booster after 60 years of age. Also, avoid contact with someone who has the disease, especially if you have not had the vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common complication of shingles is a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up. Other symptoms of shingles can include: Fever, Headache, Chills, or Upset stomach. Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, in their lifetime.
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