Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
What is Shingles (Herpes Zoster)?
Induced by a common virus known as varicella-zoster, shingles or herpes zoster is a type of infection that triggers annoying and painful rashes on the skin. The said infection appears on any part of the body, although it usually develops in the torso. This infection is somewhat correlative to chickenpox. Why is this so?
Chickenpox occurs when the same virus, varicella-zoster, infects the body. For many, chickenpox happens to youngsters. It is the main reason why people acquire it at a young age. When chickenpox disappears, the virus is still present within, although it becomes inactive. It remains dormant for many years. However, it can reactivate in the form of shingles years later.
Chickenpox commonly appears as blisters. It is an annoying feeling to have this infection as its blisters can be very itchy. It can grow from your face down to the rest of your body. While chickenpox can be very manageable given the treatments available, shingles, on the other hand, can be very painful.
Compared to where chickenpox spreads, shingles usually appear on one part of the body. Shingles usually look like red blisters filled with fluid inside. These blisters go dry after a few days and become crust where it falls off. The only to get rid of this infection is by taking antiretroviral drugs or having yourself vaccinated to prevent its probable infection.
Signs and Symptoms
As mentioned, chickenpox is considerably linked to shingles because of the same virus causing these medical conditions. However, their signs and symptoms can differ, most especially the parts of the body that these conditions affect. Note that shingles only affect one section of the body, specifically where the torso is located. The following list includes the signs of infection involving shingles:
- Itchiness in one part of the body
- Burning sensation
- Tingling or numbing sensation
- A general feeling of pain (usually in a small region of the body)
- The appearance of red rash after the sensation of pain
- Appearance of blisters
- Recurrent fever
- Mild to severe headache
- Light and touch sensitivity
- Episodes of fatigue
Of all these symptoms, the most common is the feeling of pain or inflammation. The intensity of the pain depends on the severity of the infection. Moreover, it is also necessary to know that a single pain can tell the probability of having shingles. Not all infected individuals show any rash or blisters.
As defined, varicella-zoster is the main culprit of shingles acquisition. It is the same kind of virus that causes chickenpox. When chickenpox is treated and vanished, the virus becomes inactive and lies in the nerve tissues, especially near the brain and spinal cord. After many years, the virus can become active again, which can bring about the condition of shingles.
There is no concrete explanation of how the virus awakens and triggers shingles. However, one of the best conclusions is an impaired immune system. A weakened immunity can invite many health complications, most especially in older people. That is why keeping the immune system strong and remain functioning can prevent the emergence of different illnesses, such as shingles.
Even when the rashes or blisters disappear, shingles is still capable of causing different health complications. While this may sound very daunting, there are still treatment options that infected individuals can take advantage of. The following are the most common complication caused by shingles:
- Loss of vision – When shingles appear in the eye or even around it, the infection can affect the eyesight of that person.
- Infection of the skin – If no treatment is given, the blisters triggered by shingles can result in skin infections.
- Series of inflammation – If there is no treatment administered, shingles is highly capable of causing a series of inflammation in different parts or organs of the body.
When you go visit your healthcare professional after experiencing the mentioned symptoms, the first thing that he/she does is by doing a full physical exam. Aside from the physical exam, your medical history will also be checked if your past medical conditions have been reactivated by the virus. Furthermore, to get a more concrete diagnosis, the healthcare professional will likely take a small sample from the blisters or sores and have it checked.
Herpes Zoster Treatment and Prevention
After being diagnosed with this condition, you will be given a prescription containing the type of antiretroviral drug you need to consume during the entire duration of your therapy. Some of the major antiretroviral medicines used in combating this infection are valacyclovir, famciclovir, and acyclovir.
To ensure that you will not get this infection, a vaccine is available for you and many individuals to use. There are two major vaccines that everyone can benefit from, namely Shingrix and Zostavax. Furthermore, it is a must to keep your immune system as healthy as possible to prevent any form of infection or illness.