Shingles refers to a viral infection characterized by a painful rash that usually appears on the left or right side of the torso. However, rashes can occur on any part of the body.
The viral infection is caused by the virus, varicella-zoster, which is a virus that also causes chicken pox. After having chicken pox a person have still have the virus in his nerve tissue, generally near his spinal cord or brain, in inactive form. The virus then becomes active again after many years and causes shingles.
Shingles is not a life-threatening condition; however the rash can be very painful. Preventive measures include vaccinations that may reduce the risk of developing the infection. Early treatment is necessary to shorten the period of infection and also significantly reduce the chances of developing further complications.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of shingles are generally present on certain regions of the body. They may include:
- Pain and discomfort – a burning sensation
- Numbness or tingling
- A red rash that develops after pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that rupture and form crusts
Less common symptoms include:
- Fever and chills
The initial symptom of shingles is usually just pain, which can be intense for many people. Sometimes, due to the location of the pain, it may be wrongly considered as a symptom for a problems associated with the lungs, heart or kidneys. However, in any case, medical attention must be sought.
In some cases, shingles may only give rise to pain without the arrival of any rashes on the body.
Rashes associated with shingles typically develop after a band of blisters that cover the left or right part of the torso. However, rashes can also appear on one side of the face, on one side or the neck or one eye.
When to seek medical attention
See your doctor immediately after you realize you have shingles. Make sure you seek prompt medical assistance if any of the following cases:
- You are 65 years or older. This means your chances of developing complications are higher therefore, treatment should be performed immediately
- A rash takes place near your eye. This may result in permanent damage to the eye, if left untreated
- You have a weakened immune system due to some chronic illness, cancer, chemotherapy or medications
- The rash occurs on various or large regions of your body and is painful
Shingles has no cure; however, quick treatment with the administration of antivirals may speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of shingles complications.
Medications may include Acyclovir, Valacyclovir or Famciclovir.
Medications for main may include anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, narcotic medications or numbing agents.
Home remedies can be performed with medical treatment. Taking a cool bath and applying cool, wet compresses to blisters always helps in relieving pain.