SHINGLES: A Dreadful Skin Condition

Shingles virus showing treatment and symptoms.

Having acne, skin rashes or anything that goes bad on skin can be really annoying and these skin diseases can make one’s self esteem become low. These skin conditions will not only make people uglier but also can affect one’s health since Shingles was caused by a viral infection. Here is a simple but very detailed guide to know this skin disease.

What is Shingles and how will a person catches it?

Shingles (also known as zoster or zona) is a skin disease caused by a viral infection which results to a painful rash. It is primarily happened in older adults especially from ages 50-60 but it does not mean that young people would be exempted. Aside from aging, weak immune system, stress, medications, cancer treatments and if their mothers have it during their late pregnancy or having a chicken pox themselves during childhood can also be causes of Shingles. The verdict for this painful, awful and alarming skin disease is the Vacirella zoster virus. This virus belongs to a group of viruses called herpesviruses. Herpesviruses hides in the nervous system after the occurrence of initial infection and travels down to the nerve cell fibers to cause a renewed infection.

Vocirella zoster virus is the main culprit of the popularly known viral skin disease which is the Chicken pox. When a person has healed from a chicken pox, the zoster virus remains in his or her nervous system. Upon aging, there’s a possibility that this virus will strike again and here comes the shingles.

 

Shingles Symptoms

On a single part of the body, redness and painfulness can be a red flag for shingles. You may feel itching and tingling in this area. After 1-5 days, rashes will form and these will turn into clusters of blisters filled with fluid and with crust over. It looks like a chicken pox, the difference is only that chicken pox’s rashes can be seen all over the body while shingles can be seen usually only a single part whether it’s only on face, neck, back, butt, torso, etc. New blisters may arise up to a week. People with lesions may feel spasms even at a gentle touch.

On the eye part known as optical shingles, the zoster virus can cause painful eye inflammation and cause temporary or permanent loss of vision which is very alarming.

Symptoms may include headache, fever and chills, nausea, swollen glands (lymph nodes), dizziness, fatigue, malaise and heartburn or stomach ache.

Laboratory tests can be done to detect the disease. These can detect VZV-specific IgM antibody in blood. Other tests can be conducted through collecting a lymph from a blister tested by polymerase chain reaction to observe VZV DNA or through examination with an electron microscope for virus particles.

Blood work tests are not needed necessarily, a swab of fluid from the blisters can be tested in a laboratory to detect antibodies and varicella zoster virus to confirm diagnosis.

Shingles effect: Is it contagious?

Shingles is widespread and painful. It isn’t spread through coughing or sneezing but direct contact to shingles rashes can infect others. A person with shingles must also avoid close contact with people particularly the infants, children, pregnant women and anyone who doesn’t have a chicken pox before. Also those who have weak immune system and are currently ill.

The person who has shingles can cover the affected area with dressing so it will not only be healed but also it will help to minimize the spread of the virus. As the shingles becomes drier, it will be less contagious. Once the shingles becomes scabs, the person is not anymore contagious.

How to treat and prevent Shingles?

Shingles can be treated with antiviral medicines and painkillers prescribed by doctors. If at home, non-prescription painkillers such as analgesics, acetaminophen, topical anesthetic or topical lotions containing calamine, anticonvulsants, optoids, antidepressants, aspirin or ibuprofen can ease the pain caused by shingles. Regular hand washing, avoiding picking and scratching blisters, making the crust fall off naturally will prevent infection of shingles.

Use cool and moist compress to ease the pain or itch. While waiting to have medicines, corn starch or baking soda may also be applied to dry the sores for a shorter healing process.

To clean away crusts and decrease oozing, the affected area must be soaked with tap water.

To reduce inflammation and complications, antiviral medicines might be prescribed such as Aciclovir, Valaciclovir and Famciclovir. During the healing stage, shingles will dry up forming scabs or crusts and will begin to fade within 7-10 days.

Some may resort to vaccines to prevent the re-occurrence of this disease. All about vaccines for Shingles, considerations if is it right to get a shot and medicines to be injected will be discussed on another post.

To prevent shingles from coming back or from getting it, aside from eating healthy foods, living in a clean and non-polluted environment, one must avoid direct contact to the shingles or blisters area.  Immune system must be paid attention. Regular medical check-ups even annually will definitely help to track your health condition.

Remember, Health is Wealth.