Shingles – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

By | October 7, 2013

It is the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles as well as chickenpox. Shingles are contagious and this virus has no connection with genital herpes or oral herpes virus. It causes intense pain with rash which can be treated with antiviral medications and steroids. This disease is characterized by inflammation of the skin forming painful blisters. Certain factors like weakened immunity and stress can aggravate the virus causing intense symptoms. Any person who has had chickenpox is prone to get shingles. This rash is common in people above 60 years.

Symptoms :

Shingles is marked by skin inflammation causing painful rashes. The infected person will experience burning pain before several days of first rash appearance. It is seen as small, red blisters on the skin followed by more number of blisters on various parts of the body. It is believed these blisters would follow the path of nerves arising out of the spinal cord and follow a specific distribution pattern resembling “rays”. They are seen more or less like bands on the skin. Since it affects the nerve path beneath the skin it causes intense pain. Often it involves only one level of the nerve and in some cases more number of levels is affected.

After a week of infection the blister will start oozing out liquid or pus like fluids. It may take up to 3-4 weeks of time to heal completely. The intensity of spreading the infection to others will be high when the blisters start producing liquid. A person who has already been infected by chickenpox will not get infected with shingles from others. Instead the virus will remain dormant on their body until it becomes active suddenly causing pain and blisters. Anyone who have carried chickenpox virus has increased chance to get shingles in later years of his life.

Some people will experience “flu” like symptoms once the infection begins. It starts with a headache, fever and fatigue. It is followed by itching sensation on the skin and tingling feeling on the same area. Within a day or two tiny red bands develop on the affected area of the skin. Now the itching becomes severe and within few days rashes will turn into blisters filled with fluids. In the last stage, the fluid from the blisters will burst open spreading more infection to others. There are some people who will not get any rashes or blisters but still have the pain on many areas of the body with blurred vision.

Causes :

Shingles is caused by herpes zoster virus and is often seen attacking people who have been infected with chickenpox. Once the person gets healed from chickenpox the virus will not die. It will sleep or lie dormant in the nerve roots. When situations are favorable (like weakened immunity or serious infection or hormonal imbalance) the virus becomes active and attack the person causing painful blisters and rashes.

Taking some powerful antibiotics can trigger the sleeping virus. What exactly activates the virus is still not clear. Shingles can also be infected from others. However a person who has not been infected with chickenpox has few chances to get infected with shingles rash from others.

Diagnoses :

It is easy to identify shingles that is marked with painful blisters closer to the region of nerve root. No other diagnostic procedures are required to confirm the disease. However in some people there may not be any blisters. In that case, biopsy of the affected region is done in the laboratory to check the growth of herpes virus.

Treatment :

  • Antiviral medications are given for treating shingles.
  • Pain killers are useful for reducing the pain caused by blisters.
  • Once rashes and blisters are observed on the skin you need to start antiviral drugs immediately.
  • Do not give chances for the virus to spread to other regions of your body causing more pain. Further taking medications early will speed up the healing process.
  • It is necessary to keep the blisters clean by washing it with antiviral soap. Follow the instructions of your doctor to get well sooner.
  • Medications like Acyclovir or Famciclovir or Valtrex are given for treating shingles.
  • Pain killers like Ibuprofen is to be taken along with these drugs for getting quick relief from pain.
  • NSAID’s are prescribed both for managing pain and for healing of blisters.

Complications :

Shingles will not create any problem and blisters will respond well for medications and heal completely. But in rare cases the blisters can be infected by bacteria to form cellulitis infection on your skin. In that case antibiotics are to be taken to alleviate the symptoms. In some cases the blisters formed by shingles can affect your nose as well as forehead. It has chance for spreading into your eyes causing partial loss of vision. In rare cases it can affect your ears and cranial nerves causing deafness and facial nerve weakness.

For some people the pain will continue even after the disappearance of rashes leading to a condition called postherpetic neuralgia. In this case, the pain may extend beyond a month or even more leading to irritation of the nerves. It can cause intense unbearable pain. Tricyclic antidepressants like Amitriptyline are given along with epilepsy drugs like Neurontin or carbamazepine. By taking medications in time you can prevent the condition of postherpetic neuralgia.

Pictures, Photos, Images and Pics of Shingles :

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Prevention :

There is no way you can prevent shingles. Vaccine Zostavax is available for shingles but it can be given only for people above 55 and those who have already had been infected with chickenpox or shingles. No single vaccine is available for preventing shingles in young age. However vaccine for chickenpox can be injected to children that will prevent shingles. Pregnant women should not take chickenpox vaccine as well as vaccine for shingles, since it can cause complications in the fetus.

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