Shingles - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Shingles is infection by the varicella-zoster virus of the dorsal root ganglia of the spine. Equivalent terms for shingles are herpes zoster, zoster, zona, or acute posterior ganglionitis. Shingles is most common after the age of 50 and the risk rises with advancing age.
Shingles is an extraordinarily painful condition that involves inflammation of the sensory ganglia of certain spinal or cranial nerves and the eruption of vesicles along the affected nerve path. It causes numbness, itching or pain followed by the appearance of clusters of little blisters in a strip pattern on one side of the body. The pain can persist for weeks, months or years after the rash heals and is then known as post-herpetic neuralgia
It usually strikes only one side of the body and is often accompanied by severe neuralgia. It is the reactivation of varicella zoster virus, leading to a crop of painful blisters over the area of a dermatome.
Causes of shingles:-
The main cause of shingles is- varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. This virus is in the herpes family. Some of the virus germs that cause chicken pox stay in the body, remaining inactive in the nerve cells near the spine for many years. Then the herpes zoster virus suddenly wakes up from the dormant state and grows. Once active, the germs travel along the nerve paths to the skin, leaving a path of destruction along the nerves in which they travel. The result is the pain and rash of shingles.
Other possible causes of shingles may includes:-
- Excess alcohol intake also cause shingles.
- Long term courses of steroids, may also induces the shingles.
- Medicines used after organ transplants also a factor in development of this disease.
- Depressed or stressful conditions also lead to shingles.
- Weak immune system increases the chance of the body to get affected by any disease.
- Cancer : Cancer is also the main cause of shingles.
- Radiation treatments: If a person is treated with radiations such as- x-ray, releases harmful radiation and thus causing shingles to the body.
- Injury of the skin where the rash occurs also adds to this disease.
Symptoms of shingles:-
Some important symptoms of shingles includes:-
- Burning sensation on the nerve paths along which the virus is traveling is the first symptom of this disease.
- Blisters may occur in the case of shingles.
- Two to three days after the pain has begun, a typical rash appears and the skin may get swelling.
- The area of the rash become painful after the scabs have gone and can last from a few weeks to several months.
- Deep burning, searing, aching, or stabbing pain, which may be continuous or intermittent.
- Headache may occur.
- From the bumps, blisters then form that contain clear fluid. The blisters become pustules (pimple-like sores) and crusts.
- The rash almost always appears in a band or patch on just one side of the body.
- The rash may also accompanied by a fever and enlarged lymph nodes.
- Upset stomach is also a symptom.
Treatment for shingles:-
There are three treatments available for the shingles:
- Acyclovir : Acyclovir has been used for many years as a treatment for shingles. It is effective for people with HIV . Intravenous acyclovir is used to treat serious outbreaks of shingles.
- Valacyclovir: Valacyclovir is a "pro-drug" of acyclovir. Unlike acyclovir, valacyclovir needs to be broken down by the body before its active ingredient-acyclovir-can begin controlling the disease.
- Famciclovir : Famciclovir is one of the newest drugs to treat shingles. Famciclovir is actually the pill form of a topical cream called penciclovir .
Other possible treatment for shingles includes:-
- An antiviral medicine such as aciclovir, is effective if taken at the early stage of the illness. The medicine helps control the rash and minimize damage to the nerves.
- The pain of shingles may be relieved by painkillers such as paracetamol.
- Calamine lotion may help to soothe the rash.
- Nerve blockers: Doctors often prescribe various pain medications for people with shingles. Injections of anesthetic drugs and/or steroids are being studied as nerve blockers.
- Skin Treatments: Several creams, gels and sprays are beneficial and provide temporary relief from pain.