Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Understanding Shingles

Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the "varicella Zoster Virus" which is the same virus that causes Chicken Pox (a painful rash). The words "Shingles" and "Zoster" both translate into the word "belt" which describes the pattern of the rash of blisters as they appear on the body -- generally a band on one side of the body.

After you've had chickenpox the virus lies dormant in your nerve cells next to your spinal cord, sometimes for decades. Years later, the virus may reactivate as "Shingles. When it becomes active, it travels down the nerve fibers that extend to your skin, and a rash develops.

Unfortunately, it isn't yet known exactly what causes the virus to become active again. An important factor, though, is the immune system, which helps keep viruses at bay. Shingles tends to appear when your immune system is weakened. For example, the chances of getting shingles are higher as we get older. But other things can also weaken, or suppress, the immune system's ability to fight infection, such as HIV, anticancer and transplant drugs, stress, and depression.

You cannot catch shingles from someone who has it. However, the rash that occurs with shingles sheds the same varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox and may be contagious. So, if you have not had chicken pox or have not been vaccinated against the virus, you can develop chicken pox (not shingles) if you come in contact with someone who has shingles. People with shingles can transmit the virus only if the Blisters have broken and the virus is transmitted when skin- to- skin contact with broken blisters occurs.

An outbreak of shingles usually lasts about a month. However, sometimes the pain of shingles does not go away as quickly, or disappears for a short time and then returns. This pain may last for months, and even years. This pain after the shingles rash has healed is a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)

PHN is the most common complication of shingles, and the pain of PHN can be long-lasting and debilitating. Often the pain of PHN is accompanied by intense emotional feelings such as frustration, depression , and irritability.

Early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and reduce the risk of complications, so consult your doctor as soon as you notice signs or symptoms of shingles. Pain medication, antidepressants or anticonvulsant medications may help provide relief until the pain subsides.

The Signs and symptoms of shingles may include:
  • Pain, burning, tingling, itching, numbness or extreme sensitivity in a certain part of the body.
  • A red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain.
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Typically, the shingles rash occurs on only one side of the body. It often appears as a band of blisters that wraps from the middle of your back around one side of your chest to your breastbone, following the path of the nerve where the virus had been dormant.

Sometimes, the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face. Treatment is especially important when a rash develops near your eyes. An untreated rash in this area could lead to an infection of your cornea, which may cause temporary or permanent blindness.

Although the shingles rash may resemble chickenpox, the virus typically causes more pain and less itching the second time around.

Until the shingles blister scab over, avoid physical contact with:
  • Anyone who's never had chickenpox.
  • Anyone who has a weak immune system
  • Newborns
  • Pregnant women (A chickenpox infection can be dangerous for a developing baby.)

If you develop shingles, take good care of yourself: Keep the affected area clean. Apply cool, wet compresses to relieve pain. Get plenty of rest.

info courtesy of Mayo and Novartis website

This is a re-post done especially for someone I love



Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

Thank-you for this post. I have a friend who had this. Blessigs..m.

Lille meg said...

Poor little thing! I hope it soon will be well again.It doesn't look good at all.

nannykim said...

YIkes--I came to wish you a happy New Year--and then that photo came up---

Mary said...


I have had shingles and mine weren't too bad, but hubby had a really bad case and so did my mother. Aunt May, who passed in November, had them dozens of times but she was a frail woman. She did have them in her eye and was very fortunate not to be blinded.

Thanks for the information. There is now a shot that can be given within the first three days of outbreak. It helps immensley.


Dawn said...

Miserable stuff!! They thought my mom had it awhile ago, but it turned out they never did know what it was. Have you ever had it?

Maxine said...

Very very unpleasant condition to have. An old friend of mine had it recently. I haven't checked on her lately--this tickled me to do so.

Brian said...

Thank you Mimi. Very informant. Your loved one surely appreciates it. ;) Tell Papaw thank you for all the advise.

Ruthie said...

Good post. Hopefully none of us get it this year.
Happy New Year.

Tracy said...

I hope who ever has shingles that they get well soon!

Hugs and blessings to you.

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