Shingles is a viral infection characterized by a painful, blistering rash on one half of the body. The condition is not life-threatening; however, it can be very painful. Complications of shingles include nerve pain that continues after the rash has cleared and potential vision loss if the rash occurs near or around the eye.
Causes of Shingles
Shingles results from a virus known as herpes zoster or varicella zoster. This is the same virus responsible for chicken pox. After an individual has chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the body. It is unclear why, but the virus can reactivate years later. This typically occurs during a time when the immune system is weakened. Although any individual who has had chickenpox can develop shingles, it is most common in older adults, individuals with health conditions and lower immunity as a result, people undergoing cancer treatment, and those who are taking steroids or immunosuppressant medications.
Symptoms of Shingles
The symptoms of shingles are normally limited to one half of the body. Initially, the individual may experience pain, burning, or tingling along nerve pathways. A red, blistering rash typically develops a few days later. In some cases, the person may also experience a fever, fatigue, and sensitivity to light.
Transmission of the Virus
Shingles can be transmitted when someone who has not been vaccinated against chickenpox nor had the disease touches the sores of an infected person. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox instead of shingles. Individuals with active shingles should cover the rash until it crusts over to avoid infecting others. They should also avoid contact with newborns, pregnant women, and anyone with a weakened immune system.
When to See Dr. Tony Nakhla
It is important to see Dr. Nakhla right away if the rash is near the eye to prevent permanent eye damage. Anyone over 70 or who has a weak immune system should also consult with him.
Treating and Preventing Shingles
Vaccines that can reduce your likelihood of developing shingles are available. Antiviral and pain medications can help limit the duration of the infection and help alleviate the pain.
Contact our office to learn about our treatment options if you or a loved one are diagnosed with shingles. Learn about Calabasas Dermatology Center's skin tips to prevent shingles and other skin conditions.