Shingles Information And Ways To Treat It

Shingles is classified as a rash on the skin and also goes by the name of Herpes Zoster that is caused by the virus known as Varicella Zoster.

This rash is often itchy and painful and typically appears with a number of blisters in isolated areas in a strip or band.

About 2 to 4 days before the rash or blisters become visible, the person usually experiences pain or a tingling sensation at the location where the rash or blister will appear.

The blisters or the rash typically disappear or heal within 4 weeks, while some people take months to heal. For the people with weak immune systems, they can experience significant pain for a number of months or even a number of years. This type of condition is called "post-herpatic neuralgia."

Shingles is classified as a serious type of viral infection and needs the correct treatment to avoid issues such as vision loss when shingles has mainly affected the area of the eyes.

This virus affects adults that are older more commonly and those that have immune systems which are weakened due to injuries, medication, stress and illnesses.

While the condition mainly affects adults, it also rarely affects children and healthy individuals. In most cases people who contract Shingles will usually only get it once after they have healed.

However, there are possibilities that a person can acquire the condition several times throughout their lifetime.

What Causes Shingles?

Shingles is related and caused by a virus known as Varicella Zoster.

This is the virus which also causes Chickenpox. In general, Chickenpox usually only occurs once in a person's lifetime. After contracting Chickenpox, this virus becomes inactive or dormant, but it does stay in the nerves forever.

For the majority of people, it will stay inactive permanently. However, in some people this virus will reactivate when the immune system is compromised by certain factors like age, stress, diseases or other reasons.

In addition, there certain medications that can encourage this virus to become active again. When reactivated it usually only results in Shingles and not Chickenpox.

Shingles Symptoms

Shingles is not contracted by been in close contact to the person that has it. But, it does become contagious in regards to individuals who are more susceptible to this virus.

These are the type of individuals who have never had Chickenpox and have not received the vaccination for it. If these people contract the virus, this person will usually develop Chickenpox that may develop into Shingles.

Symptoms associated with Shingles will occur in a number of stages. To begin with the infected person with the Shingles virus can experience sensitivity to bright light or headaches. In most cases, the infected person will also begin to experience symptoms that are flu-like without a fever.

As the infection progresses, the individual usually experiences a tingling and burning sensations on specific areas of their body. It typically originates from the location that the blisters or the rash will occur.

The blister or the rash typically becomes visible days later. The rash usually turns into a number of blisters that contain fluid. These blisters then break-out and it takes around two to four weeks before they heal completely.

These blisters may result in scars after they have healed. It is important to note that the majority of people that contract Shingles will develop blisters and a rash, there are a few people that will not present any of these signs.

Shingles often makes infected people feel dizzy or weak within the first few days of the infection. An individual who has Shingles can also experience a painful sensation throughout the body that can last for a number of days.

The more severe cases can cause an infected individual to experience a blurred vision as well as causing a feeling of confusion.

If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms it is highly advisable to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Shingles can become dangerous when it has not been treated fast enough or correctly.

Treating Shingles

To begin with, when the symptoms arise, it is always advisable to see a doctor in order to obtain the correct treatment.

The necessary treatment is needed to avoid spreading the virus as well as to alleviate pain and discomfort.

Obtaining the correct treatment and taking medication needs to be followed consistently until the virus has been cured and improvements in the condition occur. In the majority of cases, dependent on your immune system or the severity of your infection, Shingles typically subsides within 2 to 4 weeks.

Early treatment along with medication is important in order to avoid spreading this virus or the complications that it is associated with

Self-care can be used to alleviate the signs and the pain caused by Shingles. Here are a few self-care tips that you can use:

  • Make sure the rash is kept as clean as you possibly can. Dirt, bacteria or germs can make the rash worse.
  • Keep the blisters or the rash dry.
  • Wear comfortable and loose fitting clothing. This stops your clothes from coming into contact with the rash.
  • Avoid the use of creams or topical antibiotics. Avoid covering the blisters with bandages or plasters as this will cause more discomfort.
  • Use Calamine lotion to offer a soothing and cooling effect on the affected areas. This lotion is also effective to reduce itchiness.
  • Apply cold water or a cold compress to the blisters. This can also provide a soothing and cooling effect. This also helps to keep the rash or blisters clean.
  • Avoid sharing personal belongings, towels or clothes with other people when you have contracted the Shingles virus.
  • If possible, you should stay at home, especially when the virus is still contagious. This should include staying home from school or work while the blisters or the rash are coming out and begin to spread.
  • The blisters and the rash that have been covered by clothes reduce the risks of passing this virus onto other people.

Your doctor will usually prescribe antiviral medications as part of your treatment plan for the Shingles viral infection.

These types of medications are only available on prescription from your physician. In most cases you will need to take your antiviral medication for seven days. In some cases this prescription may be longer depending on what your doctor has prescribed.

Doctors will typically prescribe antiviral medications that include:

  • Famciclovir
  • Aciclover
  • Valaciclovir

These medications will not be able to kill this virus, but, they do prevent the infection from developing or spreading further.

These antiviral medications usually work effectively if you are able to start taking them within the initial 72 hour-period in association to the time-frame that the rash has started to become visible.

Anti-viral medications are able to assist with:

  • Decreasing the severity of the infection as well as assist in improving your condition.
  • Encourage faster healing by reducing how long the Shingles virus stays in your system.​​​​
  • Reduce the chances of developing complications associated with Shingles like post-herpetic neuralgia.

Natural Methods

Over and above the antiviral medications, there are also natural treatments that are regarded as effective solutions to ease discomfort or pain caused by the virus. The natural alternatives can be used in combination with your antiviral medication.

Take cold baths or a shower which is proven to have a soothing effect on painful blisters or an itchy rash. Try to avoid scratching or rubbing the blisters or the rash. In addition, make sure the water is not too cold. This is because exposure to these extreme temperatures may trigger the rash and result in more pain.

To avoid spreading the virus onto friends and family members, avoid sharing any personal items such as your towels with them. Your laundry and clothes should be washed separately from the rest of your family.

Your laundry and clothes need to be washed separately in very hot water in order to stop the virus from spreading. Open blisters or lesions or scratching the rash increases the chances of spreading this virus to others.

Avoid using scented creams or lotions as most of these contain high chemical contents.

Bath solutions that are natural can be found in your local drugstore. These can include oatmeal or starch bath products. These products can assist in the treatment of irritated or painful skin.

Make sure that you keep your hands clean and ensure you wash your hands as soon as you have used the toilet or before and after eating food. Also wash your hands as soon as you have touched the rash or the blisters to decrease the chances of further infection.

Avoid coming into contact with anyone or anything until you have washed your hands.

You can also consider using natural pain relievers when necessary. For example, Capsaicin is a fantastic solution which is an extract from peppers. These pain relievers have been around for hundreds of years.

Side Effects Associated With Antiviral Medications

While mostly uncommon, some people experience side effects from taking specific types of antiviral medications. Here are some of the known side-effects of anti-viral medicines:

  • Feeling sick or presenting flu-like symptoms
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Abdominal pains or discomfort
  • Nausea or throwing-up
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness or visual impairment

Who Can Take Antiviral Medications For The Treatment Of The Shingles Virus?

The antiviral medications are vital to assist in preventing the spread of this virus as well as to promote faster healing. This is usually a requirement for the majority of the people who contract the Shingles virus, especially for individuals over the age of 50 years.

Here are typical cases when an antiviral medication is necessary:

  • When the Shingles has affected the patients eye area
  • For blisters and rashes
  • When the pain ranges from moderate onto high
  • When the person already has a compromised immune-system, the antiviral medications can assist in fighting the virus
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