Chickenpox and Shingles
Chickenpox is very common-nine out of ten Americans in their mid-teens have had it. Shingles, a re-activation of the chickenpox virus, strikes two out of ten Americans. Neither are usually life-threatening, and people do not generally have to deal with either more than once.
Chickenpox, caused by the varicella-zoster virus, is extremely contagious. Infected people can pass chickenpox on just by coughing, sneezing or even being in the same room as someone who has not had chickenpox. It can also be passed along if someone came into contact with an infected person's chickenpox blisters. It is characterized by an itchy, blistery rash all over the body.
Symptoms of Chickenpox
People do not usually break out with the rash until ten to twenty-one days after being exposed. For children, chickenpox will usually begin with the rash, a fever and a general feeling of being under the weather. Adults who get chickenpox may get a fever, chills, headache, sore throat and may not feel well for two or three days prior to the rash appearing.
Course of Chickenpox
The rash will appear throughout the body, usually beginning on the face or head and the trunk of the body before it spreads. Typically people will get between 250 and 500 blisters. Even those who have had the vaccine may get chickenpox, but they usually get a much milder case. The rash will usually last five to seven days before the blisters begin to heal over with scabs.
Complications of Chickenpox
There are very few complications of chickenpox. Children usually handle the virus well. Adults have an increased risk of complications occasionally leading to hospitalization and very rarely, death.
Shingles is a re-activation of the chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster, that had been dormant in the body. To get shingles, a person would have had to have had chickenpox. Shingles is a contained, painful rash that travels along a nerve of the spinal cord. It is usually located on one side of the body or face.
Symptoms of Shingles
Most shingles cases occur with adults over fifty, but they can occur at any age. Shingles usually begins with pain or burning along a nerve, and the pain can range from mild to severe. This is when the rash usually appears. Sometimes pain or numbness will occur a few days before the rash appears.
Course of Shingles
Shingles will break out in one area on a nerve and may look like a stripe. The rash's blisters tend to heal in about a week, but the pain usually lasts longer. Occasionally a person will never break out in blisters but just have very localized pain. Shingles usually resolves in three to four weeks.
Complications of Shingles
Shingles does not usually bring complications. Occasionally the shingles break-out will be on a person's face, and if it goes around the eyes it can permanently damage the person's eyesight. The other possible complication would be postherpetic neuralgia which is pain lasting longer than a month, usually caused by irritation to the nerve.