What are shingles?
Shingles is a painful rash in the skin caused by the chicken pox virus, varicella-zoster. This skin condition usually appears in the form of a band, strip, or a small area in the body. Shingles is sometimes referred to as herpes zoster.
Causes of shingles
Shingles is caused when the chickenpox virus becomes active again after remaining dormant for several years in some nerves. Shingles is more commonly seen in people who are above 60-years-old, or those who had chicken pox before 1-years-old. It is also seen in people who have a weak immune system either due to medications or due to diseases.
When adults or children who have not had chicken pox earlier come in direct contact with shingles virus, they may develop chicken pox and not shingles.
Symptoms of shingles
This skin condition usually starts with a tingling or burning sensation in certain areas of the body. Rashes may develop in strips or bands in this area after a few days. This is followed by the development of clusters of blisters. The blisters break, forming sores which dries up. The dried up parts form crusts which falls after two to three weeks.
Some other common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Fever and chills
- General ill feeling
- Genital sores
- Joint pain
- Swollen lymph glands
If the shingles are formed in the face, it may affect the nerves resulting in:
- Dropping eyelids
- Hearing loss
- Loss of eye movement
- Taste problems
- Vision problems
Antiviral drugs and pain medications are commonly used in the treatment of shingles. Healing would be faster and pain reduced if one has antiviral medications as soon as the rashes start appearing on the skin.
Some other medications that are commonly used include:
- Antihistamines to reduce the itching
- Zostrix, to reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia
Itching and discomfort can be reduced to a large extent by having soothing baths and and by applying calamine lotion. Care should also be taken to:
- Keep the skin clean
- Avoid reusing contaminated items
- Wash reusable items in hot boiling water to disinfect them before using them.