What is Shingles and What Will Help?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is the skin rash as a result of a virus.  This virus, Varicella zoster virus, is also the same virus that causes chickenpox.  When a person contracts chickenpox and it has cleared it does not fully go away, but stays within you.

When your body is in a state of stress, or other crisis, such as cancer, or undergoes an immune deficiency disorder this virus flares up again and causes the shingles rash.  It is not fully understand why this takes place.

Shingles usually only affects the elderly, ages 60 and up.  It is quite a common occurrence and hundreds of thousands of cases are noted each year.  It begins with a burning type pain long before the actual rash appears.  After several days a rash is noted in the form of patches of blisters.

New blisters will continue to form for up to 5 days.  The patches of blisters tend to follow along a nerve path.  It is, for the most part, contained to one side of the body.  When the condition progresses the blisters will then break open and drain, followed by a crusting over.

This blistering rash, crusting and healing will take open to 4 weeks and then it will be resolved with the exception of pain that is felt from time to time.  This condition is highly contagious affecting those who have not been affected with chickenpox.

Complications with shingles are few.  If infection takes place in the blistered areas cellulitis is possible.  Loss of vision is also possible if the shingles involve the facial area.

Treatment for shingles is through the use of medications that reduce the effects of a full-blown condition.  However, this medication needs to begin with 72 hours when the rash is first noticed.  Symptomatic relief is given by using cold compresses and a lotion to prevent the itching.

In the spring of 2006, the FDA approved a vaccination for adults that have already contracted chickenpox in the past.  They have discovered that this vaccine is 60% effective in reducing the symptoms and contraction of the condition.  People that are most prone to getting shingles, however, should not receive it due to their already weakened health conditions.

The best means of avoiding shingles is through prevention.  If you have never had chickenpox avoid people who have the shingles rash.  If you are over the age of 60, ask your physician about getting the vaccination to prevent shingles.

As always, see your physician regularly for general medical care and more often if you have a health condition that warrants more visits. This should be a regular aspect of your health care routine in taking care of your body to keep it in optimal good health.

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