Shingles -Serious, Painful Disease
Shinges from the Chicken Pox Virus
Shingles is a viral infection causing a painful rash that looks like a band of blisters which can appear many places on your body. It is caused by herpes zoster which is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone had has had chicken pox is at a higher risk for shingles because after you have had chicken pox the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. In the United States, 9 out of 10 people have had chicken pox. Years later, it may reactivate in the form of shingles, While it us not life-threatening, it can be extremely painful.
Risk factors include advancing age, as shingles is more common in people over 50 years of age and if you have a weakened or compromised immune system from medications such as cancer treatments you are more susceptible. About 1 million people in the US get Shingles annually but you usually only get shingles once in a lifetime. Shingles are highly contagious.
Typical Shingle Rash
Typical Ages for Getting Shingles
Shingles on Face
The first sign of shingles is usually a burning or tingling pain, or it may be numbness or itch in a particular area of the body or face which includes eyes, mouth and ears. Several days or a week later, the rash appears. It is fluid filled blisters, similar to chicken pox on one side of the body. It can be so painful that that gentlest breeze or touch may hurt.
Shingles can occur anywhere on the body, but the most typical site of the rash is a band on the back called a dermatome which spreads from the back and can reach to the breast bone on the chest only on one side of the body or face. The rash can last up to 30 days and the symptoms usually disappear when the rash dries up.
The severity of the disease can be lessened if you receive treatment within 72 hours of the blisters forming. There are some strong antiviral medications, such as Acyclovir, Valcyclovir, or Famcyclovir. Tylenol is given for pain. Blisters should be covered until they are crusted over and don’t scratch blisters as they can become infected. The blisters break and form small ulcers that begin to dry and form crusts which fall off in about 2-3 weeks.
Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, chills, difficulty moving some facial muscles, drooping eyelid, fever and chills, general ill-feeling, genital lesions, headache, hearing loss, joint pain, loss of eye motion, swollen glands, taste problems, and vision problems. It is uncommon to have all these symptoms, but it shows the seriousness of Shingles.
Shingles Virus Explained
Unusual Severe Cases
There are rare cases where shingles can be severe and cause critical illness, including pneumonia or encephalitis which, of course, requires hospitalization. Some people can develop a long-lasting pain condition called postherpetic neuralgia which is more common in the elderly. Again, early treatment for shingles helps prevent this complication.
Prognois of Disease and Prevention Vaccine
The prognosis for healthy people who receive treatment quickly is good. The lesions heal, the pain subsides within 3-5 weeks, and the blisters usually don’t leave scars. However, shingles is more serious if you are immune suppressed, for example, an HIV patient, someone on chemotherapy or someone one on immune suppression drugs for autoimmune diseases and people who have received organ transplants.
A VZV vaccine called Zostavax was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May 2006, for use in people 60 years and older, who have had chicken pox. A panel of the AMA recommends people over 60 get the one time injection, even if they have had a case of Shingles in the past. The risk of getting Shingles is reduced by 50% and of postherpetic neuralgia 67%. The panel states “This vaccine represents an important medical breakthrough aimed at improving health in older people," said Anne Schuchat, MD, assistant surgeon general and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases. People who have had chicken pox have about a 25% chance of developing Shingles if they are not immunized.
Shingles Vaccine-Mayo Clinic
Shingles is a serious, painful disease and if you weren’t familiar with it before, you know what signs to look for now. If you start to experience the symptoms I described, certainly contact your doctor immediately for treatment to lessen the severity of the disease.
As you reach the age of 60 discuss the preventative vaccine with your doctor. It is not always covered by insurance, and the vaccine is about $200. I chose to have the vaccine after a discussion with my doctor, and my insurance paid a big $37. I made the decision based on my particular medical back ground and I have had no side effects from the vaccine. I think it was a good decision in my case
Some of My Health Hubs
- 80 Types of Autoimmune Diseases
This hub explains some of the more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases that affect children and adults. It also explains the normal immune response as compared to the abnormal response.
- DNA Testing for Disease Prevention
With new technology it is now possible to have DNA testing (genome screening) for disease prevention. Essentially this means you have your DNA (or genetic code) analyzed to see what your chances are for heart...
- Lupus Disease
Lupus means "wolf". Erythematosus means "redness". In 1851, doctors thought the facial rash that frequently accompanies lupus looked like the bite of a wolf, thus the name. I've had the "butterfly rash" as I...
© 2010 Pamela Oglesby
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