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Many of us might have faced painful rashes at some point in our life. One such rash called shingles is, however, a bit different than the usual skin rashes that we know of. It is good to be aware of what shingles actually is and how it can be identified and treated.
What Is Shingles?
Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is associated with the reactivation of the chickenpox virus that causes a painful rash. The chickenpox virus, varicella zoster, reactivates in the nerve tissues causing shingles. People develop a blistering rash when shingles develops.
Itching, burning and localized pain is also felt. The appearance of the rash is enough for a doctor to diagnose its occurrence. Shingles needs medical care. Administration of vaccination can prevent the occurrence of shingles.
What Are The Very First Signs Of Shingles?
Early signs of this rash are that of localized pain along with a tingling sensation. Fever accompanied by general weakness has been considered the very first sign of the occurrence of shingles. The area might begin to burn and pain as well. The rash begins to appear a few days after these early signs have begun to show.
A side of your body develops red or pink blotchy patches. These patches are said to cluster along the pathways of the nerve. There could be shooting, sharp pains near the area having the rash.
• Blisters: Once the rash has appeared, within a few days it would take the form of a fluid-filled blister, quite similar in appearance to that of chickenpox. The blisters are localized and not all over the body, mostly appearing on the face and torso.
• Scabbing: The blisters could burst and ooze. It could also begin to flatten after turning yellow in colour. When they begin to dry, the area starts scabbing. To completely crust over, each blister would take about two weeks.
• A belt-like appearance: When the rash appears around the waist, it gives a belt-like appearance (sometimes referred to as shingles band). Tight clothing should be avoided if this occurs.
• Ophthalmic shingles: This happens when nerves are affected making movement and facial sensation difficult. The rash is usually found near the eye, nose and forehead. It could also cause swelling and redness of the eye. It causes double vision at times.
How Do You Contract Shingles?
Although shingles is not contagious, the virus (varicella zoster) present in a person with active shingles can spread causing chickenpox in a person who has never had chickenpox or who has not received the chickenpox vaccination.
A person tends to be contagious as long as all the sores have not crusted over. People with a weak immune system and children are more prone to receive it from a person having active shingles.
How Long Does Shingles Last?
Shingles would last about a minimum of two weeks to a maximum of four weeks. There could be some minor scars left that would heal with time. However, in certain cases, the pain in the area of the rash could last for several months later as well. There are chances of shingles returning more than once in a person.
Antiviral medicines are said to reduce the progression of shingles. These medicines are best taken within 72 hours of the appearance of the early signs of shingles. Your doctor could also prescribe acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir.
You might also want to take painkillers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen as shingles causes pain and inflammation. You might be prescribed numbing gels or antibiotics if the severity of the rashes is high.
Ensure that you keep the area clean and dry. Expose the area to air as much as possible. This would promote healing. Try your best not to itch the area. Do not burst the blisters. Lingering pain after shingles can be treated with the help of complementary treatments such as acupuncture. However, consult your doctor first before trying out these alternative treatments.
Shingles can be prevented through its vaccination. There are two vaccines, namely Shingrix and Zostavax. Shingrix is considered more effective than Zostavax. It can prevent the outbreak of shingles in 90 per cent of the cases. One who has had Zostavax vaccine can also take the Shingrix vaccination. People over 50 years of age should definitely take this vaccination. A person would need to get two shots of Shingrix. The second dose is taken 6 months after the first one.
Although rare, if a person contracts shingles in spite of the Shingrix vaccination, the pain of the rash is quite less. The side effects of the Shingrix vaccine might be swelling and pain near the shot accompanied by tiredness, headache, fever, chills and stomach trouble. With Zostavax vaccination, you might get a small chickenpox kind of rash as this is a live virus vaccination.