Shingles is a viral infection identified as herpes zoster, which causes an aching skin rash and blisters. It is a condition that arises when the varicella-zoster virus, which leads to chickenpox in childhood, gets reactivated in later life. Read on as we delve into the shingles symptoms, the physical and emotional toll it takes on the affected person, and the ways to treat and prevent it is crucial for anyone who may be at risk.
What is Shingles and How is it Transmitted?
Shingles is a result of the varicella-zoster virus. After an individual has had chickenpox, the virus becomes inactive but stays in the nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. However, in adulthood, typically during periods of stress or when the immune system weakens, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles.
Shingles is not contagious, but it can still be transmitted. If someone who has never had chickenpox is in direct contact with the open sores of a shingles rash, the person may get infected with chickenpox, not shingles. Therefore, it is essential to be cautious around individuals with active shingles to prevent the spread of chickenpox.
Symptoms of Shingles
The symptoms of shingles are often distinctive, making it relatively easy to diagnose. They usually appear on one side of the body and are characterised by the following:
- Pain and Sensation
Shingles typically begin with pain, tingling, or itching in the affected area, even before any visible symptoms emerge.
Within a few days, a red, blistering rash appears. It often resembles a stripe or band on one side of the body, corresponding to the location of the affected nerve.
The rash develops into fluid-filled blisters, which can be excruciatingly painful. These blisters may continue to appear for several days.
Intense itching and discomfort are common as the rash progresses.
- Flu-like Symptoms
Some individuals experience general malaise, fever, chills, and headache.
- Nerve Pain
Shingles can cause severe nerve pain, known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can persist even after the rash has healed.
What Shingles Feel Like?
Describing the sensation of shingles can be challenging for those who have never experienced it. Affected individuals often liken the pain to various uncomfortable feelings, such as an intense burning sensation, sharp, stinging needles, electric shocks radiating along the nerve pathways, a deep, relentless ache, and an almost unbearable itch, which can significantly disrupt daily life.
How to Treat Shingles?
Treatment and management of shingles are crucial for alleviating its painful and uncomfortable symptoms and expediting recovery. Antiviral medications are effective in reducing the outbreak’s severity and duration, especially when administered early. Pain management options, including over-the-counter and prescription medications, can help ease the discomfort. Lastly, adequate rest is essential as shingles can be physically draining, and stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can mitigate symptoms exacerbated by high-stress levels.
Shingles is one of the Vaccination Preventable Diseases
The shingles vaccination, which is recommended for adults over the age of 50, is the most effective way to prevent shingles. It can significantly reduce the risk of developing shingles and its complications. It is also essential for individuals who have had chickenpox to maintain a healthy lifestyle, manage stress, and take care of their overall well-being to reduce the likelihood of shingles reactivation. By understanding the symptoms and seeking medical attention when needed, individuals can better navigate this challenging condition and work towards a more comfortable and pain-free recovery through vaccination.