Infectious Diseases

Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Symptoms, Vaccine, and Management

Written by
Dr. Vasantha K S
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jan 29, 2018 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  2 min read

Abstract

Abstract

This article talks about shingles, a viral infection, how it is caused, its symptoms, and how it can be prevented.

Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Symptoms, Vaccine, and Management

Shingles also called as herpes zoster, is an infection of the nerve caused by varicella-zoster virus, the same virus which causes chickenpox. When the virus first attacks a person, it manifests as chickenpox. After the chickenpox infection has run its course, the virus stays dormant (passive) in the nerves close to the spinal cord. After a few years or decades, when certain conditions (like low immunity) makes the conditions favorable, the virus gets reactivated to cause another disease known as Shingles.

Is It Contagious

When the virus is in the active stage, the varicella-zoster can spread from one person to another. Then there are two possibilities:

1. either the person is already immune/ vaccinated against chickenpox which means he is safe, or

2. he has not had natural immunity (chickenpox disease) or vaccination against it. In this case, he can get chickenpox and not shingles as it is his first exposure.

Signs and Symptoms

- A stripe of red rash.

- Fluid-filled blisters.

- Stinging pain.

- Itching.

Causes

Shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox as well. So, this means only those who previously had chickenpox disease or the vaccine can get shingles.

Risk Factors

1. Age:

The risk of getting herpes zoster increases with age, especially over the age of 50.

2. Poor immunity:

A weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS, cancer, chemotherapy, taking immunosuppresive agents after organ transplantation, and prolonged use of steroids.

Prevention

Two vaccines are helpful here - Chickenpox (varicella) vaccine and shingles (varicella zoster) vaccine.

Chickenpox vaccine is reccomended if you are not already vaccinated for chickenpox or never had the chickenpox disease.

Varicella vaccine is recommneded for the elderly who are prone to shingles.

Complications

Sometimes, shingles can cause complications such as postherpetic neuralgia, meaning nerve pain that lasts several months.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of shingles is based on the visual examination of the characteristic band of fluid-filled blisters and medical history of chickenpox.

Management

There is no cure for shingles and treatment primarily involves the management of pain and itching. Antivirals such as Acyclovir, Famciclovir, and Valacyclovir are prescribed in certain circumstances to reduce pain and speed up the healing process. Symptomatic relief can be obtained with the following steps.

  1. Lactocalamine can be applied to help soothe the blisters.
  2. Keep rashes dry.
  3. Wear loose cotton clothes.
  4. Antihistamines and painkillers provide respite from itching and pain.

For more information consult a shingles specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/dermatologist/shingles

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  2 min read

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