Shingles also known as herpes zoster is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus the same virus that causes chickenpox . After you have chickenpox (usually as a child), the virus that causes it stays in your body in certain nerve cells. Most of the time your immune system keeps the chickenpox virus in these cells. As you get older, or if your immune system gets weak, the chickenpox virus may escape from the nerve cells and cause shingles. In most cases, however, a cause for the reactivation of the virus is never found. The herpes virus that causes shingles and chicken pox is not the same as the herpes virus that causes genital herpes (which can be sexually transmitted) and herpes mouth sores. Shingles is medically termed Herpes zoster. Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. The pain can be mild to severe. Blisters then form and last from one to 14 days. If shingles appears on your face, it may affect your vision or hearing. The pain of shingles may last for weeks, months or even years after the blisters have healed. Although it is most common in people over age 50, if you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for developing shingles. Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations, and stress.
Shingles is another name for a condition called “herpes zoster.” Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a disease that affects an estimated 2 in every 10 people in their lifetime. This year, more than 500,000 people will develop shingles. It is correctly known as herpes zoster. Chickenpox or varicella is the primary infection with the virus, Herpes zoster , also called ‘varicella-zoster’. During this widespread infection, which usually occurs in childhood, virus is seeded to nerve cells in the spinal cord, usually of nerves that supply sensation to the skin. The virus remains in a resting phase in these nerve cells for years before it is reactivated and grows down the nerves to the skin to produce shingles (zoster). This can occur in childhood but is much more common in adults, especially the elderly. Shingles patients are infectious both from virus in the lesions and in some instances the nose and throat.
Causes of Shingles
Varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox, causes shingles. This virus is in the herpes family. After a person has had chickenpox the virus remains in their body, lying dormant or hidden in part of the nervous system. For some reason, often many years later, the virus travels back down one of the nerves to the skin, where it causes a rash in the area of skin supplied by that nerve. It’s not clear what triggers reactivation of the chickenpox virus but it may be linked to changes in the immune system. Ensuring your immune system is not weakened may help to prevent this occurring.
Find common causes and risk factors of Shingles :
Injury of the skin where the rash occurs.
A weakened immune system.
Medicines used after organ transplants also a factor in development of this disease.
Cancer is also the main cause of shingles.
Signs and Symptoms of Shingles
Sign and symptoms may include the following :
A red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain
Treatment for Shingles
Shingles is often treated with acyclovir (brand name: Zovirax), famciclovir (brand name: Famvir) or valacyclovir (brand name: Valtrex). Acyclovir is available in a generic form, but the pills must be taken five times a day, whereas valacyclovir and famcyclovir pills are taken three times a day. It is important not to miss any doses and not to stop taking the medication early. Antiviral drugs can reduce by about half the risk of being left with postherpetic neuralgia which is chronic pain that can last for months or years after the shingles rash clears. Doctors recommend starting antiviral drugs at the first sign of the shingles rash, or even if the telltale symptoms indicate that a rash is about to erupt. Even if a patient is not seen by a doctor at the beginning of the illness, it may still be useful to start antiviral medications if new lesions are still forming.
Treatment may include:
Acyclovir has been used for many years as a treatment for shingles. It is effective for people with HIV . Intravenous acyclovir is used to treat serious outbreaks of shingles.
Famciclovir is one of the newest drugs to treat shingles. Famciclovir is actually the pill form of a topical cream called penciclovir
Calamine lotion may help to soothe the rash.
The pain of shingles may be relieved by painkillers such as paracetamol .
Valacyclovir is a “pro-drug” of acyclovir. Unlike acyclovir, valacyclovir needs to be broken down by the body before its active ingredient-acyclovir-can begin controlling the disease.