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Shingles: What is it and how do you Treat it.What are shingles?
Shingles is a painful rash caused by the Varicella zoster virus (ZVZ). This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. When someone has chickenpox the virus remains in the body and is dormant. In cases of extreme stress or a weakened immune system, the virus can be reactivated and the individual can get shingles.
Shingles is medically known as herpes zoster, but it is not the same herpes virus that is sexually transmitted.
Shingles is contagious!
If someone has not had chickenpox they can catch chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If someone has had chickenpox, however, they cannot catch shingles from someone who has it. The time prior to the blisters popping and healing is the most contagious stage of the disease. Once the blisters have healed over, shingles is no longer contagious.
Most patients will know they have shingles before the rash appears. For days before the rash appears patients will have burning sensitive skin. The rash begins with little tiny dots or blisters on a round red base. The number of dots will increase over a course of days and grow along the line or path of nerves that radiate from the spin. This is called a dermatomal pattern. For example, the dots may grow in a line around the waist. It may also occur on one side of the face. Normally only one nerve line is involved, but more than one may be involved in rare cases.
As the dots grow they will eventually pop and ooze fluid. Eventually, they will heal. This takes about four weeks.
The area affected by shingles should be kept clean and dry at all times and the patient should wash with soap and water. Medication is available to help heal shingles faster and ease the pain.
Testing and Diagnosis
The burning of the skin and outbreak of the rash blisters along known nerve lines in the body is usually enough for a doctor to diagnose shingles. If shingles have started to show on the face, it is important to have a complete evaluation by a doctor as it could affect the eye and lead to loss of vision.
Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a rare complication in which the shingles has affected the cranial nerves V, IX and X. The symptoms of this are facial nerve weakness and deafness. This is most common when the shingles rash appears anywhere near the ear or ear canal.
10-15% of people with shingles who are over the age of 50 may face a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia. This is a condition where the nerve pain from shingles lasts longer than 30 days. The pain can be very severe. Antiviral agents can help reduce the duration of postherpetic neuralgia.
Anti-itching creams and lotions like calamine lotion can help provide some relief for the itching of the shingles. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication like an aluminum acetate solution to help the blisters dry up faster.
Several shingles virus fighting medications are available. These antivirals include acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir, and if they are started within the first 72hours of the start of the rash, they can shorten the duration of the outbreak.
Most patients will end up needing pain medication for the pain. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and other pain medications can help.
Those who suffer from the pain of postherpetic neuralgia can take medications such as Neurontin and Lyrical. These antiseizure medications are known to help relieve much of the pain.
Always speak to your doctor about medications for any condition you might have. This article and the information above is only for your general information and is not meant to diagnose or suggest treatment.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine for adult shingles in 2006 known as Zostavax. Studies have shown the single-dose vaccine to be more than 60% effective in reducing shingles related symptoms. IN addition, postherpetic neuralgia instances were reduced by two-thirds.
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