Shingles are also referred to as herpes zoster. It refers to a nerve infection caused by a virus that manifests in the body in the form of a painful rash and painful blisters on the skin. The condition is caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster. It is the same virus that is responsible for contracting chickenpox. They can either be internal or external. If you do not contract rashes on your skin, but your internal organs are affected, it is internal herpes zoster.
It is deemed to be a common infection. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) data, at least one out of three people in the USA develops herpes zoster at least once in their lifetime.
While they are not life-threatening, especially to adults with fair health status, they are No. However, untreated internal shingles may result in complications, especially to folks above sixty-five years or anyone whose immune is complicated. In some instances, it may lead to death.
Symptoms of Shingles
People with a chickenpox health history have a higher chance of contracting the nerve infection. After contracting chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains in the body and may sometimes reactivate. Reactivation of the virus causes herpes zoster.
Transmission of the infection is not direct, as in from one person to another. However, close contact with someone’s rash may transmit the virus hence leading to chickenpox.
Signs and symptoms of the infection only affect one part of your body. The common symptoms may include:
- Numbness or tingling
- Blisters filled with fluid which burst and crust over
- Sensitivity to touch
The symptoms come in stages where one first stage is a numb sensation or tingling under the skin. The sensation lasts for about five days before turning to a patchy red rash. The rash may be itchy and ooze.
Some people tend to experience additional signs and symptoms, which include:
- Sensitivity to light
The first symptom is pain which at first is intense. However, note that you may mistake the pain for some other underlying medical conditions affecting a particular part of your body. Some people may experience the pain without developing a skin rash.
The rash mainly affects either the right or left part of your torso and appears in the form of blisters wrapped around the affected region. They may also appear on one side of your neck, face, or eye.
Diagnosis of Herpes Zoster
Diagnosis is mainly based on one’s history of pain, especially on one side of the body, along with blisters and telltale rash. Depending on your doctor and symptoms, they may take the culture of the blisters or tissues scrapping to the laboratory for further examination.
If you have a history of varicella-zoster virus, the chances of developing the infection are higher. You are also more likely to develop herpes zoster. If you have certain medical conditions or physical factors such as:
- A disease that weakens the body’s immune system, such as HIV and AIDS
- If you are undergoing treatment for cancer or medications that weaken the immune system
- Long-term usage of steroids such as Prednisone
- People who are above fifty years have higher chances of developing herpes zoster.
As people age, the chances increase, with those above eighty years having the highest risk.
While there is no specific treatment for this viral nerve infection, your doctor may prescribe some medication to control the infection, speed up the healing process, ease the pain, and cut inflammation. Some of the drugs include:
They are administered to slow down the progress of rash. They are more effective if used within the first 72hours of showing signs and symptoms. The drugs also lower the risks of getting complications.
Your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter painkillers to ease the pain and inflammation caused by the rash. Painkillers are also effective for staving off the pain from postherpetic neuralgia.
Best ointment to put on shingles
After an attack by herpes zoster, you are likely to experience pain even after the rash clears. Your doctor may prescribe shingles ointments to relieve the pain. While there are many shingles ointments, you are always advised to work with your doctor to get the best ointment to put on shingles.
- Tricyclic antidepressants
To help in relieving the pain that lingers the skin after healing.
- Numbing medicine
- Antibiotics if you have had bacterial infections
Home care solutions to herpes zoster are not remedies but are geared to help the skin heal. They include cleaning, drying, and exposing the affected area to air. You should also invest in eating rich in vitamin A, B-12, C, E, and amino acids to help strengthen your immune system. Make sure that you cease scratching the affected areas and use shingles ointments instead.
For prevention, the administration of a vaccine is effective. There are two types of vaccines used to prevent herpes zoster: Shingrix (RZV) and Zostavax. Shingrix is recommended since it is ninety more effective in preventing an outbreak. Zostavax was the vaccine that was used previously. Shingrix is administered to senior citizens who have attained 50 years and above, even if they have not had a chickenpox infestation. People who had been administered the Zostavax vaccine are also advised to seek a new dose of the Shingrix vaccine.
The vaccine is given in two shots; the initial dose and a follow-up dose administered within the first 2-6 months of initial vaccination. Shingrix not only prevents the contraction of herpes zoster, but the pain is also less if you are vaccinated.
There is no proven treatment for the viral nerve infection. The therapy described above helps in easing the symptoms of the condition. The drugs administered also help in shortening the length of illness.
Some of the complications for untreated internal shingles may include:
- A pain or rash on the eye, which, if left untreated, may cause permanent eye damage or blindness.
- Deafness or intense pain in the ear, or loss of taste, or severe pain on your tongue.
- Neurological problems. Depending on the nerves affected, you may experience inflammation of the brain, balance problems, facial paralysis, or hearing complications.