Understanding and Managing Shingles – for your healthy life
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The rash usually appears on one side of the body, often in a strip or band, and can last for several weeks. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus. After a person has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in their nerve tissue, and later in life, it can reactivate and cause shingles.
Shingles can be a very uncomfortable and painful condition, but there are ways to manage the symptoms and speed up the healing process. In this article, we will discuss the causes of shingles, the symptoms to look out for, and the various management options available.
Causes of Shingles
As mentioned earlier, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is also responsible for chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nervous system. However, the virus can reactivate later in life, particularly when a person’s immune system is weakened.
There are several factors that can weaken a person’s immune system, such as:
- Aging: As we age, our immune system naturally weakens, which can increase the risk of shingles.
- Stress: Stress can weaken the immune system and make a person more susceptible to shingles.
- Certain medications: Medications that suppress the immune system, such as chemotherapy drugs and steroids, can increase the risk of shingles.
- Other illnesses: Illnesses that weaken the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS, can also increase the risk of shingles.
Symptoms of Shingles
The first symptom of shingles is usually a burning or tingling sensation on one side of the body. This is often followed by a rash that appears as a band or strip on the same side of the body. The rash consists of small blisters that can be very painful. Other symptoms of shingles can include:
- Sensitivity to light
- Pain, which can be severe
Management of Shingles – Understanding and Managing Shingles
Shingles can be managed with a combination of antiviral medications, pain relief, and self-care measures. The sooner treatment is started, the more effective it is likely to be.
Antiviral medications can help to reduce the severity and duration of shingles. These medications work by stopping the varicella-zoster virus from multiplying. The most commonly prescribed antiviral medication for shingles is acyclovir. Other antiviral medications that may be prescribed include valacyclovir and famciclovir.
Antiviral medications are most effective when started within 72 hours of the rash appearing. However, they can still be beneficial if started later. Antiviral medications are usually taken orally, but in severe cases, they may be given intravenously.
The pain associated with shingles can be very intense and can last for weeks or even months. Pain relief medications can be helpful in managing this pain. Over-the-counter pain relief medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), may be effective for mild to moderate pain. For more severe pain, prescription pain relief medications, such as opioids, may be necessary.
There are several self-care measures that can help to manage the symptoms of shingles and speed up the healing process. These measures include:
- Keeping the rash clean and dry
- Covering the rash with a sterile, non-stick bandage
- Avoiding tight-fitting clothing
Understanding and Managing Shingles
Understanding And Preventing Brain Hemorrhage: A Guide For Patients With Brain Diseases