Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that affects the nerves and skin. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nerve tissues. Later in life, the virus may reactivate and cause shingles.
The exact cause of reactivation is not known, but it is believed to be related to a weakened immune system due to aging, stress, or other medical conditions. Shingles is characterized by a painful rash that typically develops on one side of the body or face and can last up to four weeks.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The first sign of shingles is often a burning or tingling sensation on one side of the body or face, followed by the appearance of a painful rash. The rash typically consists of small blisters that eventually break open and crust over. Other common symptoms include:
Shingles is not contagious, but the virus that causes it can be transmitted to individuals who have not had chickenpox. Shingles can only be transmitted through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters on the rash. If an individual who has never had chickenpox comes into contact with the fluid from the shingles rash, they may develop chickenpox, not shingles. It is important for individuals with shingles to avoid contact with pregnant women, newborns, and individuals with weakened immune systems, as they are at higher risk of developing severe chickenpox.
Treatment for shingles typically involves antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, to help reduce the severity and duration of the rash. Pain medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, may also be prescribed to help manage pain associated with the rash. In some cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
If you suspect you may have shingles, it is important to seek medical attention promptly. Early treatment can help reduce the severity and duration of the rash, as well as the risk of complications. In addition, vaccination is available to prevent shingles and its complications in individuals who are at risk. If you have shingles, it is important to avoid contact with pregnant women, newborns, and individuals with weakened immune systems, as they are at higher risk of developing severe chickenpox.