Shingles is the term used for a skin rash that is caused by the herpes-zoster (varicella) virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has had chickenpox, and the symptoms have resolved the virus can lie dormant dormant in their nerve roots for years. In some cases it can reactivate and cause shingles. Some of the factors that can cause the virus to become activated are stress, advanced age, exhaustion or a weakened immune system.
This rash is very painful and can last for many weeks. It is most frequently located on one side of the body, usually it shows up on the abdomen, the back or the buttocks as a band or stripe of fluid filled lesions that later are covered with scabs. They can also be found on the face and when they do, extra precautions must be taken so as to not affect the eye. Shingles isn’t contagious to people who have already had the chickenpox. There is the possibility of people contracting chickenpox if they come in contact with the open sores and if they have never had it before, however that risk is very low.
Signs and symptoms of shingles:
• Red rash on one side of the body
• Sensitive to the touch
• Fluid filled blisters
• Tingling sensation
Symptoms will last for several weeks, sometimes months. There isn’t a cure for shingles but a physician will usually prescribe medications to make the symptoms less intense. Antiviral medication will shorten the length of time that the symptoms will be present. Medication for pain will also help. People with shingles also get some relief by using certain skin creams, oatmeal baths, and cool compresses while the skin rash is active.
There is a vaccine for chickenpox which is given to children and to adults who have never had the disease. There is also a shingles vaccine that people who have had chickenpox can be given. It doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t develop shingles but can reduce the chances of developing complications. To learn more about vaccines for chickenpox or shingles please make an appointment with a physician at Jamaica Hospital by calling 718-206-7001.
All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.