Shingles – A Viral Infection of a Nerve and Skin - Dream Health

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Thursday 5 June 2014

Shingles – A Viral Infection of a Nerve and Skin

Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is a viral infection of a nerve and the skin around it and is caused by the herpes varicella zoster viruswhich also causes chickenpox.

After the person suffers from chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the nerve tissue near the spinal cord and the brain. The immune system which is the body’s natural defence system, keeps the virus under control but later, the virus tends to reactivate thus causing shingles.

It is unknown why the virus of shingles gets reactivated at a later stage which could be due to the low immunity system of the person that could be the result of being old, stressed or a condition which may affect the immune system like HIV and AID. It causes a painful rash which develops into itchy blisters. Though singles may occur on any part of the body, it is often seen as a single strip of blisters which wraps around the left or the right side of the torso and does not cross over the centre of the body.

Since it is not a life threatening ailment, shingles can be very painful and vaccines could be helpful in reducing the risk of shingles and treatment in its initial stage could help in shortening infection as well as reduce the chances of complications.

Symptoms – Headache/Fever/Burning Pain/Itching…..

Before the rash appears on the body, most of the people begin to feel unwell. The early symptoms include headache, fever and the possibility of incorrect diagnosis. The symptoms are followed by sensation of burning pain, itching, hyperesthesia or over sensitivity or the feeling of pins and needles tingling, pricking or numbness known as paraesthesia.

The pain could be mild to severe in the affected area with sensation which could be described as stinging, aching, tingling, numbness or throbbing which can be accompanied with quick stabs of agonizing pain. Herpes zoster in children is often painless though older people tend to suffer from this condition as they age and the ailment could be more severe.

Complications like Post-Herpetic Neuralgia

In several cases after a day or two and sometimes after a three weeks’ period, the initial phase is followed with the appearance of the characteristic skin rash and the pain together with the rash which appear on the torso though they may also be seen on the face, eyes or on various other parts of the body.

The rash at first appears similar to the appearance of hives but unlike hives, herpes zoster causes skin changes which are limited to dermatome resulting in a strip or belt like pattern which is on one side of the body and does not cross the midline. Shingles can also lead to complications like post herpetic neuralgia where severe nerve pain may last for over three months after the rash has disappeared.

 It is found that post herpetic neuralgia affects 1 in 10 people with shingles and is more common in older people affecting around a third of individuals over 80 having shingles. It is not possible to prevent shingles, but a vaccine can reduce the chances of the development of this ailment.

After taking the vaccine and if one still develops shingles, the condition may tend to be mild and last for a shorter time than the usual period.

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