The herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It occurs in patients who have contracted chickenpox and manifested its symptoms. After this condition, the virus remains inactive in specific nerves of the body. Still, it can be reactivated at any time, usually in adulthood, giving rise to what we know as herpes zoster. This condition, which can be very painful, requires rest and attention to reduce pain and ensure adequate recovery. In this FastlyHealarticle, we explain the symptoms and treatment of herpes zoster and the recommendations for a proper recovery.
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Why do shingles appear?
It is clear that to suffer from shingles, and it is necessary to have previously suffered from chickenpox, which usually occurs before the age of 12. However, in the case of some people, the symptoms of this virus have been so mild that they may not remember having suffered the disease, so shingles usually take them by surprise.
It is unknown why the varicella-zoster virus reactivates in the body. However, this condition is more common in adults than:
- They have a weakened immune system.
- They suffer from severe stress or nervousness, which could compromise the immune system’s health.
- They have had chickenpox before they are one year old.
- They are older than 60 years, which increases the propensity to develop shingles.
Are shingles spread?
One of the first questions regarding this condition is whether shingles can be spread. To suffer from shingles, you must have had chickenpox, so it is not a properly contagious condition, although it must be treated with care.
The blisters generated by herpes zoster can have the liquid inside in an advanced stage. If someone who has never had chickenpox comes into contact with that liquid, they can get chickenpox. However, they will not get shingles. In the same way, if this liquid is touched by a patient who has had chickenpox in the past, they will not suffer from shingles either.
Shingles manifest themselves when the varicella-zoster virus is activated again in our body. There is no other way to contagion this condition.
The shingles usually appear on one side of the body, especially on the nerves located in the thorax or lumbar. The first symptoms appear before the blisters appear and progress until the lesions are physically manifested, and the typical characteristics of shingles appear.
The symptoms of this condition are:
- Intermittent or permanent pain in the affected nerve can occur between 2 and 3 days before the appearance of the blisters.
- General malaise is characterized by tiredness, headache, and fever.
- The appearance of a rash in the area where the affected nerve is located, small blisters begin to appear that, with the passage of days, increase in size and join together to form a large blister.
- Between 3 and 5 days after the appearance of the first cysts, the patient will already have a large blister that will cause severe pain in the nerve, itching, discomfort, and fever. The blisters have liquid. When they burst, they will begin to dry and heal independently.
- If shingles occur in areas such as the face, there may be difficulty moving the jaw, eyes, drooping eyelids, and vision problems.
Given the manifestation of the first blisters, the patient’s symptoms, and the medical history, the doctor can diagnose herpes zoster, for which additional tests are generally not required.
It is essential to be clear that the treatment of herpes zoster is not necessarily the same for all patients since the immune system of each one can react differently. The medication is usually composed of antivirals and works most effectively when they are started before the blisters appear significantly.
The pain patients usually experience in the nerve in which the virus is lodged is typically intense enough to visit a doctor, so the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the better. Analgesics may also be prescribed to reduce pain, antihistamines to treat itchy blisters, and corticosteroids for more widespread blisters to reduce pain and inflammation.
The sooner a specialist is consulted, the better the results will be and the faster the healing will occur.
Measures to relieve discomfort
To cure the herpes zoster is essential to rest because fatigue and fever caused by this condition can significantly increase the discomfort, so for others to follow medical recommendations is necessary:
- Take medication to reduce fever and get adequate rest.
- Keeping the body properly hydrated by taking small sips of fresh water throughout the day is a significant step in fighting a fever.
- Avoid scratching, or the blisters could become infected and get worse.
- Baths in oatmeal water are very effective in calming the annoyances caused by blisters. It is also recommended to apply cold water compresses to relieve inflammation and pain.
- Avoid contact with anyone who has not had chickenpox if the blisters are leaking fluid, as others will be exposed to the spread of this condition.
Complications of shingles
The shingles usually heal between 2 and 3 weeks after their appearance without significant complications; however, in some cases, depending on the state of the patient’s immune system. They may manifest inevitable sequelae such as:
- Postherpetic neuralgia was mild to moderate pain that can be present in the affected nerve area for months or years. It affects around 50% of patients with this condition, more common in those over 60 years of age.
- Skin infections due to constant scratching of the blisters.
- Difficulty in vision or hearing if herpes affects the nerves of the face.
- This condition can trigger various disorders in people with a weakened immune system, such as AIDS patients.
Can shingles be prevented?
The chickenpox vaccine is the best way to prevent the varicella-zoster virus and shingles, especially in children. Additionally, the herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for people over 50 years to avoid this disease and its main sequela: postherpetic neuralgia.
It is essential to restrict contact with people who have herpes zoster and whose blisters are oozing fluid if they have not previously suffered from chickenpox. This recommendation should be followed to the letter in the case of pregnant women whose infection with chickenpox could put the pregnancy and the fetus at risk.
This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to Herpes zoster: symptoms and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Brain and nerves category.
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.