Shingles is a medical condition that is very painful and uncomfortable. It is known to be caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox as well. It is called varicella virus and is known as herpes zoster varicella when it causes shingles. Most people get chickenpox before they enter adulthood.
However, the varicella virus always remains in our system and does not go away after recovery from chickenpox. It tends to stay in a hibernating state at the root end of certain nerves. The virus has a 20 percent chance of getting active again and causing problems. This generally happens after a long time of the first episode of chickenpox. The relapse of this viral infection is very different from chicken pox and has varying signs and symptoms.
The virus, once active, is transmitted from the end of the nerves to the top of the skin and causes shingles or blisters. This is what is known Herpes zoster. The problem tends to be localized in one area and appears as a wide belt in one area. The appearance of the rashes is such because one set of nerves is connected to one certain place on the surface of the skin and not all nerve endings house the varicella virus. It is important to remember that herpes zoster is very different from the other form of herpes which is classified as a sexually transmitted disease and affects primarily the mouth and genitals.
The true cause for activation of the virus and occurrence of shingle is not known and doctors are unable to pinpoint why some people have a relapse of the problem and others don’t. It has been noted that most cases of shingles or herpes zoster take place between the ages of 50 and 70 years. The prognosis for shingles is very good. The problem usually goes away after a little while without the help of any medication just like chickenpox.
In very severe cases, the problem can even spread to other parts of the body and will then need immediate medical attention. Pregnant women should be especially careful if they have shingles just before or after delivery. This increases the chances of the virus to be transmitted to the baby as well. These days there is a vaccine available in the market that can be used to protect against the onset of shingles. It is essential to be aware of basic information about shingles like its types, causes and symptoms.
Types Of Shingles
There is one main type of shingles that is known to doctors and it is called Herpes Zoster in medical terms. It is caused by varicella virus and is generally of the same form and appearance. Shingles is just one disease and usually affects the upper body and face. The signs and symptoms also are very common and stable in all people.
Causes Of Shingles
As discussed above, the true cause for viral relapse is not known but doctors have managed to isolate a few factors that may increase the chances of a person to get herpes zoster. Here is a list of common causes of shingles.
Stress is a common cause of many different types of medical condition. A stressed person is more prone to have a physical problem than a calm person. This is because the body diverts precious blood and enzymes to the brain and other stressed parts of the body in the attempt to calm itself down. This causes many areas to be neglected and vulnerable to diseases and problems.
A person’s immunity to various diseases drops drastically with every passing year. The body is no longer as fit as it was earlier due to wear and tear. People over the age of 50 are more at risk of getting herpes zoster than younger people. They also have a high chance of having multiple bouts of shingles. Once the virus is reactivated, there is no stopping it from surfacing again.
Cancer is another leading cause for shingles. The body starts losing healthy tissue because of the multiplication of cancerous tumors. This can cause damage to the skin and bring the virus back to the surface.
Any person with a weak immune system has a very high chance of having this problem. Such people include those with autoimmune diseases and AIDS. These diseases weaken the patient’s body and its ability to fight off infections. Pregnant women and old people also have weak immune systems and need to safeguard against shingles especially if they had a severe case of chickenpox as children.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy that is carried out to treat cancer patients can also aggravate the problem. These treatments awaken the dormant virus and make it active again.
Bad Eating Habits
Malnourished people with severe nutrient deficiencies are also in danger of having a bout of shingles. It is essential to maintain a diet which includes all the food groups and nutrients.
Symptoms Of Shingles
Here is list of the most common signs and symptoms of shingles in human beings.
Pain And Discomfort
This is the most common and also the first sign of shingles. The patient will notice a painful region that usually exists as a wide belt across one particular region. It may be on the shoulders, the back, the sides of the stomach and even on the neck.
One group of nerves is connected to one region on the body and this causes the band like region. The pain is usually sharp and constant and does not go away even for a short while.
Some patients also complain of a burning and prickly sensation on the affected parts of the skin. It is very similar to the feeling of ants biting the skin.
Shingles appear very different form chickenpox rashes. They are usually seen as round and flat blisters which are bright red in color. These sores sometimes ooze out pus and other discharge as well.
The blisters and surrounding areas become very sensitive and itchy. But patients should avoid scratching as much as possible or the sores may leave permanent scars on the skin.