Many people think that only children get the shingles – and it’s just one of many misconceptions about the infection. Getting your facts straight can mean the difference between minimizing the risk of complications and suffering from them, between keeping it to yourself and infecting others, and getting prompt treatment or prolonging the symptoms.
Blame the Virus
Shingles isn’t a skin allergy although it may appear like it. Instead, it’s a viral infection caused by varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox – and this is where the misconception about shingles being a childhood occurrence may come from. The virus, in fact, belongs to a group of herpes viruses that cause genital herpes and cold sores; the varicella-zoster virus, however, is different from the virus behind these sexually transmitted infections.
Basically, the varicella-zoster virus will enter your nervous system after you have had chickenpox. It will lie dormant in nerve tissue and reactivate several years later as shingles. It doesn’t mean to say, however, that every person who has had chickenpox will also get shingles.
For this reason, older people have a higher risk of developing shingles, especially the ones who weren’t vaccinated against chickenpox. People who have compromised or weakened immune system are also at high risk for shingles, such as those with cancer, HIV/AIDS, and transplant patients.
Know the Signs
The most obvious sign of shingles is a single stripe of blisters wrapping around the torso albeit only on either the right or left side. But the rash may also occur on one side of the face or neck, even around one eye only.
The affected area may be painful, as well as characterized by sensitivity to touch, with a burning or tingling sensation, and with numbness. The blisters may be filled with fluid while the affected area feels so itchy.
Often, the pain may be so intense that it’s accompanied by fatigue, fever, and headache, even sensitivity to light. Many people also mistake it for an underlying medical condition affecting the lungs, kidneys, and heart thus emphasizing the importance of a medical consultation.
Your doctor is the best person to give a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan for shingles, if indeed it is the case. You may be prescribed acyclovir, among others, to control the severity and duration of your symptoms – and it’s important, too, because shingles may not be life-threatening but it has its complications.
These can include postherpetic neuralgia, a condition where the feelings of pain persists well after the blisters have healed; neurological problems like facial paralysis, encephalitis, and hearing loss; and vision loss when the blisters develop in or around an eye.
With your facts straight, you can then avoid adopting quack remedies that will only worsen your condition. Your doctor is still the best person to get reliable information about your health issue.