Herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles, is a clearly visible skin rash caused by the herpes virus. The condition is a painful, irritating one for which there is no cure as such but heals with time.
Though no symptoms of herpes zoster are a surety of the presence of the infection, there are certain indications that should make one sit up and take notice. A burning, throbbing sensation on the skin, accompanied by fluid-filled blisters with scab may be a sure shot indication of the infection. If one suffers from slight fever with chills and such an infection on the skin, it could very well be indicative of shingles. When these scabs dry up, they can leave scars that are often not permanent. The skin becomes red in certain areas and extremely sensitive, so much so that sometimes, even spicy food and even a slight breeze can trigger off pain and burning sensations. Then, you need to see a doctor. Finally, one can see the appearance of prominent blisters. The forthcoming passages furnish some symptoms and related cures of this skin infection.
What Causes Shingles?
► The reason for this infection is the varicella-zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Many doctors believe that once one suffers from chickenpox, the virus that causes it never really goes away.
► They stay in the body, though dormant, and when they re-emerge, they cause herpes. Anything could actually trigger this re-emergence - stress, age, or even a decreased immunity in the system.
► When it reappears, the virus starts spreading through the nerve tracts, which is why the person suffers from the burning sensation and pain. Within 2 or 3 days, the rash starts appearing since the virus now reaches the skin.
► Then, the blisters form, which fill with pus, followed by their drying up, and subsequent scab formation. When these scabs dry, they fall off, and in 2 or 3 weeks, in most cases, the skin below heals completely.
► In most cases, these infection blisters appear along a single spinal nerve and usually only on one side of the body. These lesions may appear on the face or neck, mostly along a particular part of the trigeminal nerve.
► Since this nerve branches into the forehead, the middle and lower part of the face, blisters or lesions could appear on any of these parts. Sometimes, the eye or the mouth also get lesions, which may be dangerous to the eyesight.
► If the herpes occurs on the facial nerve, it may case facial paralysis, loss of hearing or taste, and even blisters around the ear canal. Sometimes, blisters appear on the genitals or upper thigh too. In some rare cases, herpes can cause the nerves to pain for even years after the outbreak. This condition is called neuralgia and it can be severe.
► With the severity of the symptoms, most medical practitioners can identify herpes zoster, but in case tests are required, usually it is a viral culture of a skin lesion to begin with. This may be followed by a complete blood count and an immunoglobulin measurement to check for the increase of varicella antibodies in the blood.
► In most cases, herpes does not require any medication except those that help alleviate the pain and irritation on the lesions. Scratching or disturbing the lesion will create a permanent scar. There are medications for the other symptoms but they are dependent on the patient's immunological system.
► In some cases, medication is given for reducing inflammation and lessening the risk of neuralgia. Corticosteroids are usually used for this purpose. But, these drugs have their own risks associated with them and should be used only when strictly required.
► Traditional medicine has a few cures to relieve both the pain and discomfort as well as neuralgia. Experts say that acupuncture offers great support when coupled with a good vegetable and fruit-rich diet and rest.
There are other ways to alleviate the pain caused by the itching and sensitivity of the affected area. Cool wet compresses help and even soothing lotions, like starch lotion or calamine lotion can be applied to help reduce the itching. If the person is down with fever, rest is all that is needed. To prevent further infection, keep the affected skin clean by regularly washing it. It is a good idea to keep the patient away from children and pregnant women because the infection can spread rapidly. For an uninoculated child, once the infection sets in, it can result in a really bad case of chickenpox.
Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.