Shingles rash also known as herpes zoster is a painful skin rash, which is caused by varicella zoster virus. The rash is characterized by a band or strip. It may also appear as a small area on one side of body or face. This condition manifests in older persons and those who have weakened immunity function. Weak immune function may be caused by an injury, stress, medication or other aspects. If you suffer shingles rash, you will get better and you may never get it again.
Causes of shingles rash
Shingles rash occurs from a virus that causes chickenpox. When the virus that is responsible in causing chickenpox attacks the body again, you suffer shingles and not chickenpox. If you suffered chickenpox, the virus is still in your body but in a dormant state.
In some people, this virus may wake up and attack the body while in others it never starts up again. When you suffer chickenpox, the virus, which causes the condition, goes into a dormant state in your nerve roots. Whereas for some people, it remains there for the rest of life, for other, it wakes up and attacks the body.
However, when it re-attacks the body for a second time, it does not cause chickenpox but shingles. People with weaker immune systems due to aging, stress or taking of certain medication can suffer this condition. Some medication can trigger the virus to become alert and start up again causing a painful rash.
It is not clear why the virus restarts against but what is known is that when it restarts, it can only cause shingles and not chickenpox.
Who are at risk of suffering singles?
Singles is actually a reactivation of a virus that causes chickenpox, known as varicella zoster virus. People who are 50 or older are likely to suffer re-activation of varicella zoster in form of shingles rash. In addition, those who have had surgery recently may also suffer the condition.
Medicines used to kill cancer such as chemotherapy and those that reduce effects of tumor necrosis factor are also likely to make one susceptible to this condition. If you have had radiation therapy, you may also suffer from shingles rash. People with AIDs disease may also suffer the condition.
Poor nutrition, stress, and chronic diseases that are capable of suppressing the immune system such as diabetes and lupus may also put one at risk of suffering shingles. Other conditions are injury and organ transplant. Moreover, you must have suffered chickenpox in order to suffer shingles rash.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
Symptoms of this condition come in stages and the first sign you have is headache and sensitivity to light. In addition, you may have a feeling of flu when you do not suffer fever. A patient may also feel tingling and itching or some pain on the strip or band. A small area of rash may develop some days or weeks after the reactivation or re-attack by the virus. The rash may appear in any parts and it tends to be on one side. It may appear on right or left. The rash forms blisters, which scab over and clear within a few weeks. The painful rash is the profound sign of shingles attack.
Nerves that supply sensation to your skin are found running in pathways on both sides of the body. In the event that the virus is reactivated, it travels along the nerve roots to reach an area on the skin, which is served, by those particular nerve roots.
The rash then occurs in that area and it is on one side. It may occur from middle of the back in the direction of the chest. It may also appear on face affecting one eye. Patients can suffer more than one rash in different areas of the body.
There are three main stages of the condition and include prodromal stage, which is the condition before the rash appears. This prodromal stage is characterized by pain, tickling, burning and tingling or numbness in area within the affected nerves. There may be discomfort on chest and back or on arm, leg or face. In this stage, a patient has flu symptoms but without fever. A patient may also have chills and diarrhea. The lymph nodes may become inflamed.
The second stage is the active stage when blisters or rashes appear. In this stage, small area of rash or a band appears and it may occur anywhere in body but on one side. Blisters form with a clear fluid. The rash may affect the cheek, forehead, nose or the area around eye. A patient may experience piercing needles in skin (sharp pain). The blisters may break and ooze before forming crust and this happens within a week. In about 2 to 4 weeks, the rash goes away.
The third stage is the most threatening and this is the postherpetic neuralgia or chronic pain. This is a complicated symptom of shingles and it can last for at least 30 days. In other times, it may continue for months, years or even lifetime. This symptom is characterized by aching and stabbing pain in the affected area coupled with extreme sensitivity to touch.
Treatment of shingles rash
Although there is no cure for shingles, treatment may be prescribed to shorten the duration of illness and prevent other complications. A patient with this condition is administered with antiviral medicines that reduce the pain and persistence of the rash. In addition, pain medications and antidepressants are also prescribed. Topical antibiotics may be applied on the skin to prevent infection.