Shingles and When to See a Doctor
A blistering, painful skin rash characterizes as the shingles disease. It is a skin infection caused by a virus called varicella-zoster. Commonly, it affects one side of the body. In most cases, it affects the torso or the face. Shingle disease is also known as zona or herpes zoster.
It is estimated that there are one million new cases every year in the United States. It is also estimated that one in every three people is likely to develop shingles at some point in their life. The word shingles comes from cingulum, a Latin word that means belt.
If you had chickenpox as a child, the chances of getting shingles are high. The virus remains in your body after treating chickenpox in an inactive form, which may become active again, causing shingles.
Shingles disease is most common in people with weak immune systems due to medical complications and older individuals. Some people develop what seem to be recurrent cases of shingles.
Signs And Symptoms of Shingles
In most cases, the signs and symptoms of shingles vary from individual, although some common symptoms appear to all victims of shingles. One may experience burning or tingling pain on the skin 1-3 days before the rash appears. In some cases, before the inflammation is visible, some people feel an "electric sensation" on their skin. Usually, it is only a small section of one side of the body that gets affected. The common signs and symptoms include:
Numbness, pain, burning, or tingling
A red rash that starts after the pain
Blisters filled with fluid that open and break over
Some may also experience:
Sensitivity to light
In almost all cases, pain and itching is the first symptom of shingles infection. This pain can be intense for some people that sometimes it is mistaken for symptoms of complications affecting the lungs, heart, or kidneys, depending on the part of your body experiencing the pain.
When to See a Doctor
Although in most cases, the rash will disappear on its own, treatment is advised. Seeking medication within three days of noticing the shingles rash can:
Reduce the amount of time you will have shingles. Shingles' discomfort can stay in your body for 2-3 weeks if put under medication. However, if not attended to by a professional, it may take up to 1 year.
Decrease the risk of developing other related health issues such as hearing problems or loss, pneumonia, and nerve pain, among others.
Reduce your pain
There is no known cure for shingle. Therefore, its treatment is only aimed at managing relatable problems and pain. Some rashes affect the face, putting your hearing or eyesight(sometimes both) at risk. One should see a doctor if you suspect shingles infection.
If you have been infected by chickenpox box before and you are 50 or above, consider talking to your doctor about possible prevention steps, including shingles vaccination.
The following are some reasons you should see your doctor concerning shingles.
When the rash is so painful and wide-spreading on your skin
If you are 50 or older since age increases the risk of shingles infection.
The inflammation and pain are near an eye
If you or a family member has a weak immune system that may be caused by chronic illness, medications, or even cancer.
Causes of Shingles
Shingle is caused by a virus called Varicella-zoster. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Therefore, anyone once infected with chickenpox is at a higher risk.
After one recovers from chickenpox, the virus lies dormant inside your nervous system. Eventually, the virus may become active again, travel along the nerve pathways, and get to your skin, causing shingles. This, however, does not mean everyone who has had chickenpox will get shingles.
Individuals with shingles can pass the virus to anyone who is not immune to chickenpox. Usually, this happens through direct contact with shingles' sores left open.
Risk Factors of Shingles
In the United States, most adults had chickenpox when they were young, before the discovery of the routine childhood vaccination to protect against chickenpox. This, therefore, increases the chances of getting shingles.
Some of the factors that may increase the risk of developing the shingles infection include:
Being 50 and above years of age. Shingle is standard in people older than 50, and the risk increases with age.
Being under certain medications. Drugs intended to prevent resistance of transplanted organs can lead to an increased risk of shingles.
Having certain diseases: Diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Cancer tend to weaken an individual's immune system, which increases the risk of getting shingles.
Undergoing cancer treatments: Chemotherapy and Radiation lowers one's body's ability to resist diseases, which may trigger shingles.
The most effective way to prevent shingles is vaccination.
Other preventive measures will depend on your age and whether or not you had chickenpox as a child.
Depending on the doctor's advice, several medications can be administered to individuals with shingles. However, shingles have no cure, and their treatment is mainly used to reduce pain and prevent other related infections.
Most cases of shingles are managed at home, although it is advisable to visit your doctor when you suspect shingles infection.