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What is Shingles? — an article on the Smart Living Network
December 30, 2007 at 4:15 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

What is Shingles?

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Shingles is an illness that can occur after you have the chickenpox virus (varicell-zoster virus). It usually happens when over the age of 50, when the immune system is weaker. Stress also plays a role in the formation of shingles. Shingles causes skin lesions like rashes and fluid filled blisters on different areas of the skin. Unlike the chickenpox, shingles doesn't leave any scarring.

What are the Symptoms of Shingles?

There are different signs you can watch out for when wondering if you have shingles. See the below for different symptoms associated with shingles:

  • Headaches
  • Stomach aches
  • Blisters
  • Rashes
  • Burning, itching or painful skin irritations
  • Fever
  • Skin sensitivity to touch and changing temperatures

Usually when the blisters and rashes form, they will go away after three to five weeks. Other times, after shingles goes away, pain will persist in the areas where the lesions once were.

How dangerous is Shingles?

Shingles is an illness that goes away quickly, but can lead to other complications. If pain is still felt in the areas of the rashes and blisters after they have healed, then you may have developed Postherpetic Neuralgia. This is a pain that can last for months or years at a time. The blisters from shingles can also become infected with a secondary bacterium that can lead to gangrene and ugly scarring. Since shingles is located in the nerve cells and along the spinal cord, it can cause motor paralysis. Depending on your immune system and overall health will determine how soon and how well you'll get over it. Elderly people have the hardest time recovering from paralysis caused by shingles, as well as those who have immune system deficiencies like AIDS and diabetes.

Who are Likely to get Shingles?

Everyone is subject to getting shingles, as long as they have had the chickenpox virus before. Even those who have never had the virus can catch VZV from someone who has chickenpox or shingles. The VZV vaccine is essential to fighting against catching chickenpox. And once you have the chickenpox, you are supposed to be immune from it for life, but there are some instances where people will catch it again. Anyone with immune deficiencies, such as AIDS, HIV, diabetes and those receiving chemotherapy are at high risk if shingles is obtained. Of course they would have had to have chickenpox first. But if they do come in contact with someone who has shingles before getting VZV they can contract the chickenpox, which can later lead to shingles developing.

Are Women Especially at Risk from Shingles?

In a way women are more at risk from shingles and that is due to the fact that they can become pregnant. When with child, a women should do all she can to avoid contact with those with the VZV illness. Even those with shingles, which is not contagious, should be avoided. If the woman contracts the chickenpox virus while in a late stage of pregnancy or at birth (rare), it can cause complications with the infant. For starters, if the woman gets the chickenpox 21 to 5 days before birth, her body may be able to transmit antibodies through the placenta to the infant. The baby may be born with the chickenpox or catch it a few days after birth. If the baby does survive the virus attach, it is very likely that he or she will get shingles within the first five years of life. Sometimes congenital malformations can be caused in the infant if the mother had maternity chickenpox.

Sources:

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/detail_shingles.htm

http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/infectious_diseases/shingles

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