Shingles - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Shingle is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus- the same virus that causes chickenpox. After decades of having chickenpox, the virus may remain in your nervous system and it may activate anytime causing shingles. It presents as a painful rash. Chickenpox appears all over the body, including the back, chest, and body. But shingles mostly cause rashes on one side of the body as a stripe, mostly on the torso, neck, and face. It is not a life-threatening condition, but it is highly painful as the blisters cause a burning sensation along with pain. Vaccines can help in reducing its risk. Early treatment can help prevent its complications. The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia which causes shingle pain long after it has cleared out. 


Symptoms


Chickenpox appears all over the body, including the back, chest, and body. But shingles mostly cause painful, burning rashes on one side of the body as a stripe, mostly on the torso, neck, and face. They appear on a small part of the body. The characteristics of those rashes are;


  • itching

  • red patches

  • fluid-filled blisters that break easily

  • wraps around from the spine to the torso on the face and ears


Other symptoms may include;


  • fever

  • chills

  • headache

  • fatigue

  • muscle weakness


The most common and often the first sign of shingles is intense pain. It is so intense that often it is misconstrued with the pain of vital organs like that of the heart or lungs. In some cases, it may cause pain only without any rashes. However, mostly it appears as a stripe of rashes around either the left or right side of the torso. 


Causes


Shingles are caused by a virus known as a varicella-zoster virus- the same virus that causes chickenpox. After getting recovered from chickenpox, the virus may live in your nerve tissue in a dormant stage, showing no signs and symptoms. Whenever it activates, maybe because of the weakened immune system, it causes shingles. It is most common in adults because it may occur even after a decade of having chickenpox. But it is not for sure that if someone has chickenpox they will have shingles too. 


Shingle is a contagious disease. A person having it may pass it to others. But in others, it may cause chickenpox. Those who have not got chickenpox yet can get it on getting exposed to or touching the lesion of shingles. 


People having shingles can spread it until the final blister scabs over. Till then, they should avoid their exposure to people who have not had chickenpox or are not vaccinated against it. 


Risk factors


People who have had chickenpox can have shingles. The common risk factors for it are;


Being older than 50

Having a disease that weakens your immune system like AIDS, malignancies, and repeated infections

Taking medications that suppresses the immune system like corticosteroids

Undergoing therapies that suppress the immune system like radiotherapy or chemotherapy for cancer



Conclusion 


Shingle is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus- the same virus that causes chickenpox. After decades of having chickenpox, the virus may remain in your nervous system and it may activate anytime, causing shingles. It presents as a painful rash. Chickenpox appears all over the body, including the back, chest, and body. But shingles mostly cause rashes on one side of the body as a stripe, mostly on the torso, neck, and face. It is not a life-threatening condition, but it is highly painful as the blisters cause a burning sensation along with pain.


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