Shingles is a painful condition triggered by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus which is responsible for chickenpox. It is important to note that shingles attacks the nerve cells and triggers intense nerve pain and skin rash that manifests over the affected nerve.
The condition develops among individuals who have chickenpox in the past. The virus can linger in the body in its inactive form for years. In some cases, the dormant virus is reactivated later by anything that stresses the immune system such as certain ailments.
What are the indications?
Shingles often affect the nerves and skin. It can occur in any part of the body, but usually affects one side of the torso. The common symptoms include the following:
- Rash with a band or patch-like shape over the affected area that forms into fluid-filled blisters that dry out, crust over and heal
- Itchiness, tingling or intense burning pain that occurs prior to the rash, usually on one side of the torso
What are the risk factors?
- Older adults with history of chickenpox who have not received the shingles vaccine
- Recent ailment
- Having a condition that weakens the immune system such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, organ transplant or chemotherapy
- Impaired or weakened immune system which increases the risk for recurring episodes of shingles
Remember that there is no cure for shingles but antiviral medications can reduce the severity and length of the condition.
Antiviral medications are also given to minimize the risk for developing postherpetic neuralgia which is a serious complication of shingles. The commonly used antiviral medications include:
Other medications that are used in treating shingles include:
- Antidepressants to reduce the pain
- Corticosteroids to lower the risk for developing postherpetic neuralgia
- Pain medications