Shingles

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a skin rash that can be uncomfortable, itchy and even painful. Shingles usually occurs in older adults and is a condition that affects a small area on the body or face. Shingles often lasts a few weeks. While it is usually not dangerous, it can be serious, so one should seek out medical attention to alleviate the symptoms and quicken the recovery time.

Causes: Shingles is actually caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, called the varicella zoster virus. As a child recovers from the chickenpox, the virus becomes dormant (inactive) in the body. The virus remains dormant into adulthood, and sometimes, forever. However, in some cases, the virus resurfaces when an adult immune system has been weakened due to factors such as stress, illness or an injury.

Symptoms: Symptoms of shingles often occur in a few stages. At first, the patient may experience flu-like symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, sensitivity to light, general achiness, or fever. Next, the patient may develop itchiness or pain in a particular area, and eventually, a small strip of a rash appears. The rash then forms into clusters of blisters which eventually fill with fluid. Occasionally, a patient may only experience a mild rash or may not develop a rash at all. The skin lesions can be contagious, so they should be covered and caution should be used around infants, small children and the elderly.

Treatment: While shingles can go away on its own, the recovery time and length of discomfort can be shortened under proper medical care. Shingles is usually treated with antiviral medication that speeds up the healing time for the rash and also helps with any pain accompanied with the virus. While at home, it’s important for the patient to keep any open sores from the blisters clean. If the lesions are occurring near the eye or tip of the nose the patient should seek immediate medical attention.