One in every three individuals in the US can develop shingles in their lifetime. And every year, there are about one million cases of the infection diagnosed in the country. Shingles is an infection that is the aftermath of chickenpox. So, all of you who have a history of chickenpox may be at an increased risk of developing shingles. If you happen to notice angry, stubborn rashes or blisters that have surfaced around your torso, beware! They might be shingles. Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is medically referred to as herpes zoster. This infection is the result of the same virus responsible for causing chickenpox. Shingles can cause painful rashes anywhere on the body. However, most often, it looks like a single stripe of blisters that wraps around one side of your body, typically on your neck, face, or torso. Shingles is characterized by a red skin rash that causes pain along with a burning sensation.
In individuals who have had chicken pox earlier, the virus continues to remain dormant in the nerve tissues surrounding the spinal cord and brain. After many years, this inactive virus may get reactivated in the form of shingles.
As shingles is contagious, it is important that you take precautions to prevent spreading of the infection to other individuals. Here’s what you need to do: Keep your rash/blisters covered until they dry completely. Avoid contact with individuals who have never had chickenpox or have weak immunity. Avoid sharing of utensils. Wash your hands frequently.
Vaccination is one of the widely accepted and successful ways to prevent shingles. However, if you end up developing the infection despite taking all the precautions you could have, don’t be disheartened. Most cases of the infection are mild and will start easing within a few days or weeks.
Shingles can be classified into three stages based on the progression and varying symptoms in each stage. Prodromal Phase: The first stage, also referred to as the prodromal phase, is often characterized by symptoms like: Headache, Pain and burning sensation on one side of the body or in small patches all over the body, Malaise or discomfort, Photophobia.
Acute Phase: The second stage or acute phase is characterized by a dermatomal rash. The characteristics of the rash include: Fluid-filled blisters that can break easily, Red patches, A rash that tends to wrap around one side of your torso, The appearance of a rash on the face and ears, Such rashes are also accompanied by other symptoms like unbearable itching, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and pain. These rashes last for 7-10 days, and most affected individuals heal in 4 weeks.
The third stage of shingles is usually not experienced by all affected individuals. It is associated with complications like: Rashes that involve the eyes, Postherpetic neuralgia – A condition that can affect the nerve fibers and skin, Loss of hearing, severe pain in one ear, dizziness, or loss of taste on your tongue that may be symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome, Subsequent bacterial infections.
There’s no cure for shingles, but your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication to help shorten the duration of the virus and reduce symptoms. Although an antiviral is an effective treatment for shingles, it’s not the only option. Several natural remedies may also reduce pain and discomfort.