Also called: Herpes zoster, Postherpetic neuralgia
Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. It may not cause problems for many years. As you get older, the virus may reappear as shingles. Unlike chickenpox, you can’t catch shingles from someone who has it.
Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. The pain can be mild to severe. Blisters then form and last from one to 14 days. If shingles appears on your face, it may affect your vision or hearing. The pain of shingles may last for weeks, months or even years after the blisters have healed.
There is no cure for shingles. Early treatment with medicines that fight the virus may help. These medicines may also help prevent lingering pain. A vaccine may prevent shingles or lessen its effects. The vaccine is for people 60 or over who have had chickenpox but who have not had shingles.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
If you’ve had chickenpox (over 90% of US adults have), the virus remains in your body and can cause Shingles.
The chickenpox virus stays inactive in certain nerves.
If the virus becomes active again, usually later in life, it causes the painful disease called Shingles.
How Do You Get Shingles?
You are at risk for getting Shingles if you have had chickenpox. In addition:
Conditions that weaken the body’s immune (defense) system, such as aging, cancer, or certain drugs, increase the chance that the virus will become active again, resulting in Shingles.
You should know that there is no way to predict who will get Shingles, or when.
About half of the nearly 1 million Shingles cases in the United States each year occur in people aged 60 years and older.
1 out of 2 people living to age 85 will have Shingles.
The older you get, the longer the Shingles rash may last.
Key Facts About Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster (HZ), can be a painful disease that can affect anyone who has had chickenpox.
It can start at any time, without warning.
The first signs of Shingles are often felt and may not be seen. These can include: itching, tingling and burning. A few days later a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears, usually on one side of the body or face.
Sometimes the pain before the rash appears can be confused with other conditions and this can make Shingles difficult to diagnose early on.
What Are the Risk Factors For Shingles?
1. Having had chickenpox
3.A weakened immune (defense) system caused by such things as cancer and certain drugs
Who Is Affected by Shingles?
It is estimated that in the United States up to 1 million cases of Shingles occur every year. As you can see from the bar graph below, Shingles increases with age. Of these 1,000,000 cases, 40% to 50% occur in people 60 years of age and older.
How does Shingles start:
1.The first signs of Shingles may include an itching, tingling, burning, or painful feeling.
2.Usually this feeling will only be on one side of your body or one side of your face.
3.A few days later, you can expect to see a rash appear on the same area of your skin.
SYMPTOMS BY STAGES
1.Before the Rash
An itching, tingling, burning, or painful feeling may occur
2. The Rash
Appears in the same area as the symptoms before the rash
3.After the Rash
The Shingles rash can be painful. Shingles rash usually last up to 30 days, and for most people the pain associated with the rash lessens, as it heals. However, for some people, after the rash heals, Shingles may lead to pain that can last for months or even years (a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN).
Shingles can happen in any area of the body.(See the pictures below)
What Are the Treatments for Shingles?
Antiviral medicines for Shingles can help speed up healing and reduce pain, but if possible treatment should begin within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms. Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional immediately if you think you may have Shingles so that treatment may begin as soon as possible.
Click for Shingles Alternative treatment
How Is Shingles Pain Treated?
For pain associated with the Shingles rash, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain medications or prescribe pain medications.
What Are the Complications of Shingles?
Shingles complications may include:
Bacterial skin infections
Changes in vision, including potential vision loss
Paralysis on one side of the face
Long-term nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)
Allodynia (pain from the slightest touch of the skin such as a slight breeze over the skin or contact of clothing on the skin)
Source: The New York Times