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Home :: Shingles

Shingles (with Pictures) - Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Alternative name :: Herpes zoster

What is shingles, and who can get it?

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. It affects the nerve endings in the skin. Shingles can appear anywhere on the body; however, it is most commonly found on the skin of the abdomen underneath the ribs, leading toward the navel. Other commonly affected areas are the vaginal tissues and the inside of the mouth.

Most adults have already contracted chickenpox. This common childhood disease causes a fever and a rash that itches maddeningly, but rarely does any permanent damage. However, once the varicella-zoster virus enters the body and has caused chickenpox, it doesn't go away. It may lie dormant in the spinal cord and nerve ganglia for years until activated, usually by a weakening (temporary or permanent) of the immune system. Then the varicella-zoster infection spreads to the very ends of the nerves, causing them to send impulses to the brain that are interpreted as severe pain, itching, or burning, and rendering the overlying skin much more sensitive than usual. An estimated 90 percent of people who have had chickenpox are at risk of developing shingles. Those who have never had chicken­pox have very little chance of developing shingles because it is not very contagious.

Most people who get shingles are more than 50 years old or have a weak immune system. For example, you might get shingles if you have cancer, take medicines that weaken your immune system or have the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

Information on the symptoms of shingles

An attack of shingles is often preceded by three or four days of chills, fever, and achiness. There may also be pain in the affected area. Then crops of tiny fluid-filled blisters surrounded by a red rim appear. The affected area becomes excruciatingly painful and sensitive to the touch. Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash. Sometimes the pain starts a few days before the rash appears. The rash begins with reddish bumps. In a few days, these bumps turn into blisters. You might feel a stinging or burning pain. The rash may wrap around your back and chest, or it may be on one side of your face.

Other symptoms can include numbness, fatigue, depression, tingling, shooting pains, swollen and painful lymph nodes, fever, and headache. This phase of shingles lasts seven to fourteen days. The blisters eventually form crusty scabs and drop off. Scarring can occur in severe cases.

Shingles can also affect your eyes, causing swollen eyelids, redness and pain. Shingles of the eye can cause scars that affect your vision. It can also lead to glaucoma later in life.

Information on the causes of shingles

The pain of shingles is caused by an inflammation of the nerve that lies just beneath the skin's surface. Shingles originates from the same virus which causes chickenpox. The chance of an attack of shingles can be increased by many factors, including stress; cancer; the use of anticancer drugs; spinal cord injuries; and conditions that suppress the immune system, such as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); or the use of medications such as corticosteriods or cyclosporin. However, serious illness is not required to activate the virus. Any type of physical or emotional stress can make one susceptible. Often, something as innocuous as a minor injury or a mild cold can lead to an attack in an otherwise healthy person. In most cases, it is never determined just what the trigger is.

Shingles strikes some 750,000 Americans each year. It can appear at any age, but is most common in people over the age of fifty, when immune function naturally begins to decline as a result of aging. Most cases of shingles run their course within a few weeks. More severe cases may last longer and require aggressive treatment. In some cases, the pain continues for months, even years, after the blisters have disappeared. This syndrome, called postherpetic neuralgia, is more likely to occur in older people. If shingles develop near the eyes, the cornea may be affected and blindness may result. About 20 percent of persons who get shingles go on to suffer a recurrence of the disease.

For people with immune deficiencies, shingles and its aftermath can be devastating. The disease is capable of affecting the internal organs, attacking even the lungs, kidneys, and liver. Disseminated shingles can cause permanent injury-including blindness, deafness, or paralysis, depending upon the area of the body that is served by the infected nerves-if it goes unchecked. Death can occur as the result of a secondary bacterial infection or viral pneumonia brought on by shingles

Information on the shingles treatment

Some the common herbal home remedies for the treatment of shingles are :-

  • Burdock and red clover cleanse both the lymph nodes and the bloodstream.
  • Licorice extract can be used topically to treat shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. It appears to interfere with the growth of the virus.
  • Bi phaya yaw (Clinacanthus nutans), an herb used in traditional Thai medicine, has been shown in clinical studies to shorten the time it takes to recover from shingles in some cases. It is applied in cream form.
  • A combination of oat straw, St. John's wort, and skull­cap helps to reduce stress and itching. Mix equal amounts of oat straw, St. John's wort, and skullcap tinctures together, and take 1 teaspoon of this mixture four times daily.
  • Olive leaf extract aids in fighting the virus of shingles.
  • Eat plenty of foods that contain vitamin B6, including bananas, nuts, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Prevention tips
  • Keep stress to a minimum. Stress reduces the immune system's effectiveness in fighting off infection. Studies have found that people with shingles report having recently been through stressful periods more often than other people.
  • See an ophthalmologist if the shingles appear on the forehead, near the eyes, or on the tip of the nose. Untreated ophthalmic herpes zoster can lead to vision loss.
  • If you are suffering from a rash or blisters of an unknown origin, see a dermatologist-he or she can administer a test that only takes a few minutes.
  • Avoid drafts. Allow the affected area to be exposed to sunlight for fifteen minutes each day. Wash the blisters gently when bathing, and otherwise avoid touching or scratching them.

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