What is Shingles and What Causes It? (Definition)
Shingles (or herpes zoster) is a viral infection brought on by the chickenpox virus. Varicella-zoster, the virus that infects a patient with chicken pox, lies dormant in nerve tissue after the symptoms disappear. Many years later (usually in adulthood), the virus can reappear in the form of shingles.
Shingles usually appears as rows of blisters on the torso although the blisters may appear on other body parts. The specific location of the blisters on the body varies. The pain and discomfort can be intense. Most people who come down with shingles suffer two to four weeks, but the condition may produce some continuing nerve pain for several years.
The majority of people who get shingles are past 50 years of age and about 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. is affected by shingles at some point in their lives. Researchers suspect that the immune system weakens gradually as people age, so shingles rarely shows up in people with the strongest immune defenses.
What Are Shingles Symptoms?
Patients may experience warning symptoms before the painful rash appears. Headache and fever may show up first. In rare cases, the patient will only develop the warning symptoms without the painful rash. There are no treatments to cure the condition, so the patient’s goal is to relieve the symptoms as best as possible. Patients may use their favorite over the counter medicine to relieve the pain. Calamine lotion or capsaicin are available to relieve the itch of the blisters. Doctors may prescribe corticosteroids to relieve more intense short-term pain.
The best course of treatment for shingles is to try and avoid your chances of developing the disease by getting vaccinated. The vaccine effectively protects people from shingles or significantly reduces the discomfort of an outbreak. If you have already has shingles, the vaccine can help protect against recurrence.
Medical professionals generally recommend the shingles vaccine for people over the age of fifty with some qualifications. Consult with your healthcare professional if you think you may have shingles or if you are considering getting the vaccine.
See below for updated news and information regarding Shingles including new medical research, treatment options and advancements.
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