Shingles. Oh, the pain.

As many as one out of three people who have had chicken pox will suffer an attack of shinlges. Learn how to prevent it.

Chicken pox may not seem like much when you’re a tad of six or seven years old, and you may think that all you have to show for your bout of the disease is a mild pox mark or two, but you are oh, so wrong.

Chicken pox is viral infection caused by zaricella or herpes zoster and unfortunately, once it takes up residence in your body, it is more than reluctant t to leave. After the chicken pox symptoms have disappeared, the virus hides in the nerve tissues near your brain and spinal cord and years later may come back as shingles.

Shingles is a painful condition that manifests as a rash of blisters that can occur anywhere on the body but most often shows up on the left or right side of your torso. Some people get it on their face, where it can affect vision. The rash can last two to four weeks, but the pain can persist for months and then it can be excruciating. In a small number of patients, it never goes away, having caused nerve damage.

It is important to know the symptoms because early action can lessen the effect. It may start as a headache or a sensitivity to light or you many feel that you are getting the flu but don’t have a fever. This can be followed by tingling, itching or pain. A few days later, the affected area may develop a rash which turns into blisters. The blisters fill with fluid and then crust over in a 10 to 12 days, taking two to four weeks to heal.

shingle-courseIf you get the opening symptoms, see our doctor immediately. Fast action with anti-viral medications can reduce pain and prevent complications. Complications can include bacterial skin infections in the blister stage, spread of infection to internal organs, scarring, and, in the case of shingles on the face, permanent eye damage. The most debilitating complication is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), the persistence of pain due to nerve damage. This occurs in 10 to 15 percent of all patients. The pain may last for months and may go on for years.

It is estimated that anywhere from 35 to 30 per cent of individuals who have had chicken pox will get shingles and the chances go up as you age. People over 50 may want to consult their doctor about the shingles vaccine, which, while not indicated for everyone, may be a wise course of action for some with a history of shingles in the family.

By the way, having had shingles is no guarantee that you won’t get another outbreak – about six percent of people will have a second occurrence within seven years. Even if you have already had shingles, you can still benefit from vaccination.

While shingles is not particularly contagious, a person who has never had chicken pox can be infected with chicken pox by contact with shingles when they are still in the blister stage.

2 thoughts on “Shingles. Oh, the pain.”

  1. There is a good vaccination now.
    “The risk of shingles increases four-fold after the age of 50. Thanks to medical progress, it is now possible to vaccinate against shingles with the Zostavax vaccine. It took 15 years to introduce the vaccine against chickenpox.”

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