The medical field is full of mysteries. Among the most wildly misunderstood areas are viruses, their causes, and their treatments, to list a few. Of course, each mystery is often accompanied by a myth, a dangerous factor that can lead someone to avoid treatment or misdiagnose their problem entirely. A familiar tale is that the shingles virus can only be contracted after someone had chickenpox earlier in life. While this is true in most cases, it is important to note that a person can contract both illnesses or only one of them simply because they are both spread through the same virus, the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
What is the Shingles Virus?
This viral infection is caused when VZV enters the body. Though it is not life-threatening, it is described as an excruciating, inconvenient condition that many people barely understand themselves. The virus results in a rash that can present itself anywhere on a person’s body, most commonly seen as a stripe of blisters. However, it is important to note that the rash usually only affects one side of the body.
Though each individual is different and experiences contrasting extremities associated with the virus, the most common symptoms include:
- Pain, often accompanied by burning.
- Numbness or tingling in the portion of the body experiencing the outbreak.
- A red rash that usually appears days after the onset of pain.
- Sensitivity to touch and itching.
- Blisters filled with fluid that break open.
Other symptoms that are not always concurrent with the virus include extreme fatigue, headaches, and even fever in severe cases. While the signs of an outbreak are worrisome in itself, what makes this virus so tricky is that unless the rash is already present, professionals often misdiagnose the symptoms as being problems associated with the heart, kidneys, and lungs. Additionally, some patients never experience the rash as their outbreaks occur in their eyes.
Again, this virus is caused by VZV, just like chickenpox. Since most people have had chickenpox or have gotten the vaccine, the VZV virus could enter the body, penetrate the nervous system, lie dormant for years, and eventually result in an outbreak. Of course, VZV can be contracted without ever having chickenpox as it is highly contagious. It can be spread from person to person with direct contact, through respiratory secretions, and more.
While a basic concept of the causes of this ailment exists, it is still unclear why some get the virus, and some do not. Because it is more common in older adults, a weakened immune system often increases the chances of contracting it. Those with conditions that hinder the immune system, such as diabetes, are more likely to get it as well. Those undergoing cancer treatments and using certain medications, such as steroids and anti-rejection pills, have increased chances of developing it, too.
Though precarious, a plethora of treatments exists in combating the virus, plenty of which are natural.
As previously mentioned, the most common symptom of this illness is a painful rash. Because of this, topical treatments and ointments tend to trump the other medications necessary to combat this. Because some ointments can trigger certain reactions and may not even penetrate the skin’s protective barrier, patients prefer to take a more natural approach to treat their symptoms.
Specially crafted ointments have to safely penetrate the skin’s protective barrier, working fast to alleviate the pain and itching associated with the rash. The healing characteristics of the ointment soothe skin inflammation and eliminate nearly 100% of the bacteria helping cause the outbreak in less than one minute. This is also great because bacteria present on the open sores found in the shingles rash could worsen infection.
Conclusively, there is, unfortunately, no cure for this virus. Preventative measures exist, such as the vaccine, but like most other viral infections and diseases, every person is affected differently, making certain measures ineffective. Though antiviral drugs are often necessary for combating the virus, shingles ointment is among the most popular treatment choices as it is easy to apply, readily accessible, and alleviates painful symptoms promptly.
This tricky virus may make people uneasy, highlighting why it is paramount to know the signs, risk factors, and causes. It is also comforting to know that treatments exist and that they are, in fact, effectual.