English 4 MIN READ 947 VIEWS May 10, 2024

Shingles: A Comprehensive Guide for Patients

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Shingles is a viral infection that occurs in the form of a rash on the skin. You can feel a painful and burning sensation if you have this disease. It normally occurs due to a specific virus called varicella-zoster virus. This virus causes chicken pox and usually after recovery from this, the virus stays dormant in the body. It occurs when this virus gets reactivated in your body leading to shingles.

Shingles disease mostly occurs on one side of the body and can be identified by its colour, varying from red, dark pink, dark brown, or purplish (depending on the person’s skin color). This article discusses the disease more in-depth and provides information about the symptoms that can happen if you have shingles, as well as the treatments required to deal with it.

Shingles Symptoms: How to Know if You Have It

Every condition marks its symptoms on your body. If you observe the following, it may indicate shingles:

  1. Painful and burning sensation on one side of the body
  2. Skin becomes sensitive to the touch
  3. Rashes on the skin that start after a few days of the burning sensation
  4. Blisters occur on the skin that are filled with fluids, can burst, and then become crusted
  5. Itchiness and tingling sensation on the skin
  6. Fever and headaches
  7. Sensitivity to light and fatigue
  8. Weakness in muscles due to involvement of nerves.

Shingles disease is not a life-threatening issue and usually clears up within 3 to 5 weeks with treatment. It can be extremely painful for the person suffering, and can also cause a lot of complications in certain cases. Certain complications that can occur are listed below for your reference:

  1. Postherpetic neuralgia (refers to burning, tingling, shock-like feeling that goes on for more than 90 days after rashes appear on the person’s body)
  2. Bacterial skin infections (can happen usually when the blisters are scratched)
  3. Eye damage and loss of vision (if the disease occurs on your face or near the eye)
  4. Ramsay Hunt syndrome (refers to extreme ear aches, weakness on one side of the face, and blisters that can occur in your ear canal and/or your mouth)
  5. Issues like pneumonia, encephalitis, and hepatitis can also occur, but only in rare cases when the zoster virus becomes widespread in the body

Different Stages of Shingles

When shingles occur in your body, it develops in different stages. Have a look here: 

Pre Eruptive Stage

This refers to the stage that occurs two to three days before the initial rash begins on the body. The person usually starts feeling a burning, tingling, or itchy feeling on one side of the body and/or face. You can also get a fever during this stage. Other symptoms such as exhaustion, body pain, stomach issues, and sensitivity to light may also be noticeable.

Acute Eruptive Stage

This is the second stage of shingles meaning the disease has progressed further. Here, blisters can start developing in the affected area of the body. The disease can show up in the form of a band or belt on the skin. The blisters can then progress and burst over time, causing ulcers on the skin. Then later on within 7 to 10 days, scabbing of the skin starts happening. 

Causes and Factors of the Shingles Disease

Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. After treatment, the virus itself stays dormant in the body’s nerve cells. In the future, at any point in time, this virus can emerge again in a singular nerve root, and the disease occurs on the skin that’s connected to this root. Infection can occur at any time in our bodies due to various factors, some of which are listed below for your reference: 

  1. Old age (risk of the disease increases after a person turns 50)
  2. Weak immune system (can be due to any kind of disease such as cancer, diabetes, HIV, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis to name a few)
  3. Immunosuppressant medication, such as chemotherapy, prednisone, and drugs prescribed for organ transplants
  4. Emotional stress and physical trauma
  5. Family history of the viral infection

Shingles Treatment: How to Treat and Prevent It

The only preventive measure that we can truly take to fight against shingles disease is through taking a vaccination that is actively available to the public. Other than that there is a standard medical procedure that is followed to treat the viral infection. This procedure has been listed below for your reference and understanding:

  1. Antiviral medications can help curb the spread of the disease, speed up the healing process, and also help prevent any complications related to the issue. You should consult your doctor as soon as you see any of the symptoms as these medications should be prescribed and taken within 72 hours after the rashes start developing on the body. 
  2. Another common form of shingles treatment is through pain medications that can help ease the pain and discomfort of the affected person. Common over-the-counter pain drugs such as NSAIDs can be prescribed to this person suffering from this disease depending on the severity of their pain, and various other medical factors. In extreme cases, opioids can also be prescribed by doctors. 
  3. Using cold compression and a washcloth to ease the itchiness can be used. Calamine lotions or colloidal oatmeal baths can also be used to provide comfort. 

Conclusion

Shingles can be extremely uncomfortable and painful for anyone who suffers from it. If you have ever suffered from chickenpox in your lifetime, and if you have some of the risk factors, you need to be extremely careful. Watching out for the symptoms and getting the proper shingles treatment as soon as possible is extremely necessary to ensure that the pain and discomfort remain at a minimum. 

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