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Shingles

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Shingles is a form of herpes zoster that leaves behind a painful and blistering rash. The rash typically appears 2 to 3 days after exposure and tends to last for 2 to 3 weeks, with the worst of the shingles affecting the skin on days 5 to 8. It is unlikely to have a recurring case of shingles after a patient has experienced it one time.

SHINGLES SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of shingles may vary some, depending on a person’s age or overall health. The patient may initially experience pain on one side, tingling, or a burning sensation that is limited to one area of the body, very intense pain and burning, skin reddening, the appearance of blisters followed by grouped, dense clusters of blisters that ooze and then crust over. Most patients experience fevers, chills, headaches, vision abnormalities, droopy eyelids, hearing loss, genital lesions, abdominal pain, joint pain, loss of eye motion of control, taste abnormalities, lymph node swelling, or a general feeling of malaise.

SHINGLES CAUSES

Shingles is caused by a virus, the same virus which causes the chickenpox. It is spread from human to human contact, usually as shingles but it can develop as chicken pox if the exposed individual has not had chickenpox in the past and has not been vaccinated against chickenpox. Those who have had chickenpox in the past may experience shingles as the virus re-emerges into the system. Once an individual has had the chickenpox, the virus lives in a dormant state inside the body and can then re-emerge as the shingles is re-exposed to the virus.
Shingles
Image: Shingles

SHINGLES RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for shingles include adults over the age of 60, children who have had the chickenpox before the age of one year, and those whose immune systems are weakened due to autoimmune deficiencies or other diseases. Anyone can get shingles, however, although it is more common for those with these particular risk factors.

SHINGLES DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis can typically take place when a physician visually inspects the skin. If tests are necessary tests of the skin lesions to test for viral infections and culture scrapings, the Tzank test of the skin lesions, a complete blood count to test for white blood cells, and a specific antibody measurement which will reveal elevated antibodies of the varicella virus.

SHINGLES COMPLICATIONS

There are possible complications associated with shingles, and shingles should be treated immediately in order to avoid complications. Complications may include secondary bacterial skin infections, facial paralysis, loss of taste, loss of hearing, potential blindness, post herpetic neuralgia, generalized infections, lesion of organs, encephalitis, and sepsis in an immunosuppressed. Physician care can minimize the chances of complications.
Herpes zoster
Image: Herpes zoster

SHINGLES TREATMENT

Treatment options are typically minimal, as shingles will tend to clear on its own in most cases. Medications to relieve symptoms such as pain may be necessary in an effort to make the patient more comfortable. Antiviral medications may help to reduce the length of the active virus and decrease the strength which it affects the patient, however antiviral medications need to be prescribed early in the infection in order to be effective. Immunosuppressed individuals may require intravenous antiviral medications in order to reduce the chances of serious complications.


Cool and wet compresses can help alleviate the pain. Soothing baths and lotions can help alleviate a certain amount of discomfort. Bed rest is recommended at least until the fever subsides. The skin should be kept continually clean and any contaminated items should be properly discarded to reduce the threat of spreading the disease or re-infecting the patient. Item that can not be disposed of properly should be boiled before re-use. During the period that the lesions are oozing the patient may need to be isolated from others to prevent the spread of shingles. Exceptional care should be taken around women who are pregnant and small children and babies.

The chickenpox vaccine has shown to be a considerable factor in cases of shingles. Those who have had the chickenpox vaccine and then later contracted the shingles were not nearly as ill during the worst of the virus, and the life of the virus was considerably shorter. The chickenpox vaccine does not guarantee that either the chickenpox or the shingles won’t be contracted, but it has been proven to reduce both illnesses considerably.
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