Shingles is a viral infection known for the red, painful rash is causes. Shingles can pop up anywhere on the body, but they are most likely to appear as blisters that wrap around your torso. Though not life-threatening, the pain this conditions causes is reason enough to seek early treatment to shorten the lifespan of the infection. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is also responsible for chickenpox. Even though most people who get shingles recovered from chickenpox decades earlier, the virus can live inactive in nerve tissue for decades until it comes back as shingles. The following are the most common symptoms of shingles.
Most people report a low-grade fever or general weakness the first few days before the notable shingles rash appears. Sometimes, before the rash sets in, areas on the body tingle, burn or become slightly painful. This will go on for a few days and then the signature rash will pop up.
The second symptom experienced during the beginning stages of shingles is blotchy red or pink patches that run down one side of the body. Most of the time, the rash seem to cluster along the nerves. Some people also report shooting pains that occur along the path of the rash. At this point shingles is not yet contagious.
The blotchy rash quickly turns into blisters, and this is when shingles can start to get very painful. The blisters are filled with fluid and will develop for several days, likely increasing in count each day. They tend to be itchy and painful as they grow. The good news is, the blisters tend to be concentrated in a single area. Most people experience blisters on the face and torso, but they can appear in other locations, as well.
Sometimes the blisters that emerge from the rash will erupt and start to ooze. After this happens, the pockets of skin will start to flatten and turn yellow. Once the liquid dries out, a crusty scab forms. Some people find the pain lessens at this point, but for others, it will continue for months or years. Also, the scabs may itch, but you should resist the urge to pick at scabs or blisters before they erupt.
While most people only suffer from shingles on one side of the body, about 20% of people who develop shingles will see the rash cross over into different areas. These areas are known as dermatomes or different skin areas into which spinal nerves extend. When this occurs, the rash is called widespread zoster and makes the shingles rash appear a bit more like a chickenpox rash. People with weakened immune systems are most likely to experience this incarnation of the condition.
In rare cases, shingles can affect the nerve responsible for controlling movement in your face and overall facial sensation. When this occurs, the shingles rash will pop up around your eye and then cover your nose and forehead. People with this version of shingles tend to experience constant headaches and swelling of the affected eye. This can have a negative effect on your vision and cause double or blurred vision that will not go away until the rash resolves.
Infection is always a possible side effect of shingles because open sores can be a breeding ground for bacterial infection. The best way to reduce the chance of secondary infection is to make sure all blisters and rashes are cleaned on a regular basis and avoid scratching them. If you have any reason to suspect an infection, talk to your doctor right away as early treatment can help prevent the infection from spreading and reduce the risk of permanent scars.
Some people with shingles report feeling nauseous either right before the rash appears or after, when the blisters appear. This is likely a combination of the virus's effect on your immune system and the resulting book. If you are nauseous, the best thing to do is rest and stick to a light diet with plenty of fluids.
Many people believe once you get shingles, you cannot contract it again, but the Center for Disease Control warns that it is possible for some people to suffer from this incarnation of the varicella-zoster virus several times since it never truly leaves the body. Therefore, the best prevention is the shingles vaccine, which is available to people who had reached the appropriate age or already dealt with the condition.
For most adults, shingles is not contagious. That said, since the virus is the same one that causes chickenpox, if you are around someone who has not had the chickenpox or the vaccine, it is possible they will become infected and develop chickenpox. However, the only way to transmit the virus is via direct contact with an open blister.
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