Shingles is a viral infectious nerve infection that presents as painful rashes. Under normal circumstances, shingles can occur anywhere on the body, but in many cases it appears as a single strip of blisters surrounding the left or right side of the trunk.
Shingles is caused by the Varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Under normal circumstances, after the individual has had chickenpox, the Varicella zoster virus continues to be inactive in the neural tissue near the individual's spinal cord and brain. Over the years, the virus can become active again and cause the symptoms of shingles.
While shingles is not a life-threatening medical condition, it can be a very painful experience for the individual. While pre-vaccination can help reduce the risk of shingles in individuals, early treatment may help both shorten the duration of shingles and reduce the likelihood of developing a number of complications.
Shingles is caused by the Varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Almost any individual who has had chickenpox before can get shingles. However, not everyone who has chickenpox will develop shingles. After chickenpox heals, the virus can settle in the nervous system and remain dormant for years. The virus, which can become active again after a while, can cause shingles by moving along the nerve pathways that extend to the skin of the individual.
The cause of shingles has not yet been determined by medical professionals. One theory suggests that as the individual gets older, it is due to the decrease in the individual's immunity to infections. Shingles is more common in older adults and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Varicella-zoster virus is part of a family of viruses called the Herpes virus, which are viruses that normally cause cold sores and genital herpes. Shingles is also known as Herpes Zoster for this reason. However, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles in individuals is not the same as the virus that is a sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for herpes or genital herpes.
Individuals with shingles can pass the Varicella-zoster virus they carry to almost anyone who is not immune to chickenpox. This transition most commonly occurs through direct contact with the open wounds of the shingles rash. Individuals can develop chickenpox after being infected with the virus, but they do not develop shingles.
Chickenpox can be quite dangerous for some individuals. Normally the individual is contagious until the shingles blisters crust over. Therefore, it is important to avoid physical contact with individuals who have not yet had chickenpox or have not had the chickenpox vaccine, especially those with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, and newborns.
There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of developing shingles in individuals who have had chickenpox before. The first of these is being over the age of 50. Shingles is most common in individuals over the age of 50 and the risk increases with advancing age. Some medical professionals estimate that half of people aged 80 and over develop shingles.
Diseases that weaken an individual's immune system, such as AIDS and cancer, can increase the risk of shingles. Also, radiotherapy or chemotherapy applied during cancer treatment can reduce the individual's resistance to diseases and trigger the development of shingles. Medications designed to suppress the immune system, especially to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, or long-term use of steroids such as prednisone may increase the risk of shingles.
What Are The Complications That May Occur With Shingles?
During the shingles process, some complications may arise for the individual. In some cases, the shingles pain continues long after the blisters have gone. This condition is known as Post-herpetic Neuralgia and is caused by incorrect or exaggerated pain messages being sent from the skin to the brain by damaged nerve fibers.
Ophthalmic Shingles, which develops in or around the eye, can cause painful eye infections that can lead to permanent vision loss in the individual. Depending on which nerves are affected by shingles, inflammation of the brain, namely encephalitis, facial paralysis, or hearing or balance problems may occur.
Bacterial infections can develop on the skin due to shingles blisters that are not properly treated.
How to Prevent Shingles?
Two vaccines are available that can help prevent shingles. These are the chickenpox vaccine and the shingles vaccine. The chickenpox vaccine is a vaccine that is routinely used in childhood to prevent chickenpox. This vaccine is also recommended for adults who have never had chickenpox. Although the vaccine does not guarantee that the individual will not develop chickenpox or shingles, it can reduce both the likelihood of complications and the severity of the disease.
In addition to the normal varicella vaccine, two shingles vaccines have been developed to prevent direct shingles from occurring or causing severe complications. One of these vaccines is recommended for people aged 50 and over, while the other is recommended for individuals over 60.
The most common side effects of shingles vaccines include redness, pain, tenderness, swelling and itching at the injection site, and headache. Shingles vaccines are used only as a prevention strategy. It is not designed to treat individuals with the disease. Just like with the chickenpox vaccine, the shingles vaccine does not guarantee shingles free. However, it can shorten the course of the disease, alleviate its severity and reduce the risk of Post-herpetic Neuralgia.
What are the Symptoms of Shingles?
In many cases, the signs and symptoms of shingles affect only a small part of one side of the individual's body.
Among the various signs and symptoms that can be observed in the shingles process, there are primarily pain, burning, numbness or tingling, a red rash that begins a few days after the pain, sensitivity to touch, itching and liquid-filled bubbles that burst easily with itching.
In more rare cases, signs and symptoms such as fever, headache, sensitivity to light and fatigue may be observed in addition to these.
Pain is often the first sign of shingles. In some cases, this pain can be very intense for the individual. In some cases the pain can be confused with a symptom of any other problem affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys, depending on the location in the body. In some rarer cases, individuals may experience the pain of shingles without ever developing a rash.
The second most common sign of shingles, the shingles rash most commonly develops as a strip of blisters surrounding the right or left side of the trunk. Shingles rash can occur around a single eye or on one side of the neck or face in some cases.
Individuals with a suspicion of shingles should consult a doctor as soon as possible to take advantage of early treatment. However, individuals who feel pain near the eye and observe redness should seek emergency medical help.
Shingles near the eyes can cause permanent eye damage if left untreated. Similarly, individuals over the age of 60 should consult a doctor as soon as possible because of the significantly increased risk of complications, who have weakened immune systems due to various chronic diseases such as cancer, medications or diabetes. Individuals with common rash and pain are also recommended to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed?
For the diagnosis of shingles, doctors primarily use the physical examination they make on the individual and the questions they ask to determine the medical history. The diagnosis of shingles is usually diagnosed with the observed rash and blisters as well as the complaint of pain on one side of the individual's body. In some cases, a tissue scraping or bubble culture may also be taken by the doctor for examination in the lab.
How Does Shingles Pass?
Shingles usually lasts for two to six weeks and resolves spontaneously. Most individuals only get shingles once. However, since the virus that causes the disease does not leave the body, it has been observed that the situation is repeated more than once in some cases, especially in cases where the immune system is very weak.
How is Shingles Treated?
Under normal circumstances, there is no cure for shingles. However, starting the treatment process early with some antiviral drugs that may be prescribed by the doctor can accelerate the recovery and reduce the risk of developing complications. In addition, your physician may prescribe pain relief pills and / or creams to reduce your pain and reduce the severity of symptoms.
It is generally necessary to avoid alcohol during the shingles treatment process. In addition to reducing the effectiveness of certain medications, alcohol can increase the risk of developing side effects such as dizziness, especially in older adults.
Lifestyle Changes And Home Care For Shingles
Taking a cold bath or applying a cold, wet compress to the blisters during the shingles process can relieve itching and pain. It is important for the individual to try to stay away from tension during the disease process and to reduce the stress in his life.
Since the blisters that occur during the shingles process are contagious until they cover a crust, it is an important step for the individual to keep himself away from people who have not had chickenpox or those with a weak immune system during this process and not to spread the virus to others.