Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin supplied by the nerve. The first symptoms of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or occassionally numbness or itch, in one particular location on only one side of the body. Though painful, typically shingles isn't a serious condition. The disease is mainly seen in the elderly, but sometimes occurs in younger individuals. It is is caused by the same virus which causes chickenpox - the varicella-zoster virus.
Most people develop shingles only once, but reverts in other areas are possible. You can only get shingles if you had chickenpox in the past or if you have had the chickenpox vaccine. Occassionally, however, the rash can lead to a debilitating complication called postherpetic neuralgia. Shingles begins as small blisters on a red base, with new blisters continuing to develop for 3-5 days. In majority of cases, an episode of shingles occurs for no apparent reason. Occassionally a period of stress or illness seems to trigger it. It influences all races with equal frequency and occurs intermittently throughout the year.
Shingles also can cause fatigue, a low-grade fever and mild muscle aches. The most common point for shingles is a band, known as a dermatome, spanning one side of the trunk around the waistline. Shingles can also effect your eyes, causing swollen eyelids, redness and pain. Shingles is also more common in people with a poor immune system. For instance, shingles commonly occurs in younger people who have HIV/AIDS or whose immune system is suppressed with treatment such as steroids or chemotherapy.
The chicken pox virus remains quiescent or inactive in nerve root cells of the body. In many people, the virus "rouses" within the nervous system to cause shingles. Shingles of the eye can cause scars which affect your vision. It can also follow to glaucoma later in life. Shingles is not infectious. Shingles develops only when the virus in a person's body becomes active. Shingles is not usually perilous to healthy individuals though it can cause great misery during an attack. Anyone with shingles on the upper half of their face, no matter how mild, should seek clinical care at once.
Causes of Shingles
The common causes and risk factor's of Shingles include the following:
- A virus known as the varicella-zoster virus.
- A weak immune system.
- Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past may develop shingles.
- Excess alcohol intake.
- Conditions which affect the immune system, including HIV infection.
- Periods of increased stress.
Symptoms of Shingles
Some sign and symptoms related to Shingles are as follows:
- A stabbing pain.
- A red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain.
- Sometimes fever and chills.
- Flu-like symptoms without a fever.
- Swollen eyelids.
- A tingling feeling or itchiness of the skin.
- Sensitivity to light.
- Upset stomach.
Treatment of Shingles
Here is list of the methods for treating Shingles:
- Shingles is usually treated with acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir.
- Oral antibiotics may be required for secondary infection, usually flucloxacillin or erythromycin.
- Your doctor might also have you take a steroid medicine to reduce your pain and swelling.
- Shingles of the eye is treated with antiviral medicines and steroids.
- A topical ointment called capsaicin or a skin patch that contains the pain-relieving medication lidocaine may be soothing as well.
- The pain of shingles may be relieved by painkillers such as paracetamol.