Shingles: Signs And Symptoms
What Is Shingles?
If you’ve ever had the chickenpox as a child and believe you got over it, you’re only partially correct. While the itchy, blistery skin rash indicative of childhood chickenpox may be ancient history as far as you’re concerned, the virus that caused the infection did not disappear. Anyone who has had chickenpox still has the virus. It simply hides in the cells of one’s spinal nerves in a latent form and should not be a problem so long as that person’s immune system remains healthy.
The problem arises, however, when one’s immune system becomes weakened or compromised. That is when the virus, known in medical terminology as varicella-zoster virus or VZV, may be reactivated. Awakened from its dormant state, VZV moves along the nerve fibers that travel to the skin, often causing severe pain to the nervous system and resulting in a distinctive rash. This viral infection is called shingles, also known as herpes zoster. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in three people can expect to acquire shingles in the course of their lifetime.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Shingles?
People who develop shingles tend to feel their symptoms before they see the signs. It is common to experience painful, burning feelings, numbness and tingling under the skin, and severe itchiness around the torso, limbs, chest, or back and localized to one side of the body. Symptoms may also be experienced on the face. Wherever these early symptoms are felt, they are typically followed several days later by the appearance of a belt of red bumps in those same areas that soon turn into blister-filled lesions. Sometimes the lesions form in clusters in the affected area. Worse still, shingles are often accompanied by sharp, shooting pains on the skin.
What If Shingles Symptoms Appear on the Face?
Those who develop shingles on the face often see the lesions or rash develop around the eye and on the forehead. The close proximity to the eye is concerning. Redness and swelling can negatively impact the cornea, sclera, or the nerve cells that help the eye react to light. Shingles near the eye can lead to infections and, left untreated, can result in scarring and nerve damage and could potentially lead to a temporary or permanent loss of vision. Shingles lesions around the ear may lead to hearing loss or problems with balance.
Are There Any Other Symptoms?
Shingles sufferers may also experience a general malaise. It is common to come down with fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, or a loss of appetite or nausea. They may also temporarily lose their sense of taste. Strange or severe symptoms may include vertigo and confusion.
How Long Does a Shingles Outbreak Last?
The entire shingles experience can generally be expected to run its course in about two to six weeks. The shingles blisters tend to remain for about a week to ten days before becoming crusted over and disappearing. And as the rash disappears, so too does the pain – at least most of the time. In some cases, particularly with those who acquire the viral infection after the age of 60, shingles sufferers may continue to experience chronic nerve pain. This is called postherpetic neuralgia, and it can persist for months and sometimes years.
It should be noted that shingles is not technically contagious. However, anyone who has not had chickenpox and comes in contact with someone with shingles is at risk of developing chickenpox. Additionally, anyone who is in direct contact with the blistering lesions from shingles may become infected.
Is There a Cure?
Preventive vaccines for shingles are widely available, and health care professionals recommend the vaccination for persons 50 years of age or older. However, there is presently no cure for the infection.
Try Using Creams for Relief
There are a number of homeopathic remedies and topical treatments that can help reduce the symptoms associated with shingles. The best cream to put on shingles are made with natural ingredients and is effective in soothing a wide variety of skin conditions. This includes the lesions associated with shingles. These creams penetrate the skin’s barrier to reduce inflammation and provide healing, soothing relief from the itching and pain of shingles.