Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash.Although can occur anywhere on your body, mostly appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.
Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus the same virus that causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox the virus stays in your body. It will not cause problems for many years. As you get older and older the virus may reappear as shingles. Although it is common in people over 50, anyone who had chickenpox is at risk.
While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles is very painful. Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while treatment can help shorten infection and lessen the chance of complications.
The signs and symptoms usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. These signs and symptoms may include:
♦ Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
♦ A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
♦ Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Some people also experience:
♦Fever and chills
Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. For some, it can be intense. Depending on the location of the pain, it can sometimes be mistaken for a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys. Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.
How long is shingles contagious?
Shingles is contagious and can be spread from an affected person to babies, children, or adults who have not had chickenpox or have not had the chickenpox vaccine. But instead of developing shingles, these people develop chickenpox. Once they have had chickenpox, people cannot catch shingles (or contract the virus) from someone else. Once infected, however, people have the potential to develop later in life.
How is shingles diagnosed?
The clinical appearance of shingles, with characteristic painful blisters localized to the region of a specific nerve, is usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis. No diagnostic tests are usually required. However, particularly in people with impaired immune function, and may sometimes not display the characteristic clinical pattern. In these cases, samples from the affected area may be tested in a laboratory, either by culturing the tissue for growth of the virus or by identifying the genetic material of the virus.
Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles. Most adults in the United States had chickenpox when they were children, before the advent of the routine childhood vaccination that now protects against chickenpox.
Factors that may increase your risk of developing shingles include:
♦ Age. Shingles is most common in people older than 50. The risk increases with age. Some experts estimate that half the people who live to the age of 85 will experience shingles at some point in their lives.
♦ Diseases. Diseases that weaken your immune system, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, can increase your risk of shingles.
♦ Cancer treatments. Undergoing radiation or chemotherapy can lower your resistance to diseases and may trigger shingles.
♦ Medications. Drugs designed to prevent rejection of transplanted organs can increase your risk of shingles as can prolonged use of steroids, such as prednisone.
Complications from shingles can include:
♦Postherpetic neuralgia. For some people, shingles pain continues long after the blisters have cleared. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia, and it occurs when damaged nerve fibers send confused and exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain.
♦Vision loss. Shingles in or around an eye (ophthalmic shingles) can cause painful eye infections that may result in vision loss.
♦Neurological problems. Depending on which nerves are affected, can cause an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), facial paralysis, or hearing or balance problems.
♦Skin infections. If blisters aren’t properly treated, bacterial skin infections may develop.