Shingles: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Medically reviewed by Dr Azizi Yusuf on Aug 1, 2019

WHAT IS SHINGLES?

Shingles is a skin disease or skin infection caused by a virus that lives in nerves system. It is also referred to as herpes zoster. It occurs when the dormant tissue like chickenpox virus, varicella zoster is reactivated in nerve tissue.

This infection will appear in a form of red skin rash, tingling, itching, localized pain and burning sensation. Blistering rash may appear on one side of the body but not for all people with shingles. Typically appearance of shingles or blister can be seen on the torso, neck or face. Shingles usually last from two to four weeks and happens to have complete recovery after that. 

Doctors are able to diagnose shingles just from the appearance of the rash. Shingles rarely occurs more than once in the same person, but it may develop approximately 1 in 3 people during their lifetime. However, it may vary from one individual to another where it may reactivate multiple times.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SHINGLES?

Early symptoms of shingles include fever, chills and general weakness like deep pain, burning, itching and tingling sensation. Red rash and patches may form a few days later. During early stages shingles is not contagious to whom that suffered from it and others. Pink or red patches may be noticed on one side of the body along nerve pathways. 

Other symptoms that may appear include:

Fluid-filled Blister – Develop from rash which is similar to the blister from chickenpox. It may be accompanied by itchy and continues to develop for several days. However, the blister only appears at the localised area and not spread out over the whole body.

Scabbing and crusting – It starts to develop once the blisters start to flatten and dry out. Each blister will take around one to two weeks to completely crust over. The risk of virus spreading is low once the blister is completely crusted.

The shingles belt – It appears like belt or half belt formation around the rib cage and waist. It is easily recognised and commonly covers wide area on one side of the midsection.

Ophthalmic shingles – It affects the ophthalmic nerve that controls facial sensation and movement in the face. The shingles appear around the eyes, forehead, and nose which usually accompanied by headache. Redness and swelling of the eye, inflammation on the cornea or iris and drooping eyelids will show up as the symptoms. It may also cause temporary and permanent loss of vision.

Infection – Bacterial infection may happen from the blister. Proper care by keeping the area clean and avoid scratching may lower the possibility of secondary infection. Proper and early treatment helps in preventing the bacteria from spreading and scarring to happen.

Shingles can’t be passed from one individual to another.  But chickenpox virus in children sometimes can spread to someone who has never had chickenpox before. In this situation, the person may get infected from chickenpox, not shingles. An infection may only spread through direct contact with fluid from blisters and not from coughing or sneezing. It is less contagious compared to the chicken pox.

CAUSES OF SHINGLES

Main cause that triggered shingles is varicella-zoster virus that dormant behind both chickenpox and shingles. It can live inside the human body for years without causing or showing any symptoms. The varicella-zoster belongs to a group of viruses called herpes viruses which is why shingles also known as herpes zoster. Their ability to hide in nerves system makes them remains almost indefinitely and reactivates or awakens under certain conditions.

There are  no proven facts how shingles can occur, but experts have come with several possible triggers that may reactivate the virus including:

  •       Older age- Around 50 years old and above
  •       Diseases that lower the body defences- Cancer, HIV or AIDS
  •       Cancer treatment- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
  •       Excessive stress or physical trauma
  •       Immunosuppressive drugs
  •       Chickenpox – during infants or inherited during late in pregnancy

HOW TO PREVENT SHINGLES?

Vaccination can help in keeping you from developing severe shingles symptoms or complications. Nowadays, most of the children are being immunised with chickenpox vaccine in about two doses known as varicella immunisation . For adults that had never been infected by chickenpox should also get this vaccine.  While for the shingles vaccine, containing varicella-zoster immunisation will help in preventing severe symptoms and complications associated with shingles. Adults who are 50 years or older are advised to get the immunisation from the doctors.

Shingles infection can be prevented by having proper care at the infected area such as frequent handwashing. Keeping the rash covered, dry and clean help in reducing the risk of infection to others. Do avoid people that haven’t had chicken pox or who has weak immune system. By wearing loose-fitting clothing really helps in providing comfort to the skin and allowing rapid healing process. Soothing the infected area may aid in relieving the itchiness.

NATURAL WAYS TO PREVENT SHINGLES

There is no cure for shingles but practices any home treatment can also help ease your symptoms.

Home treatments may include:

Healing baths

Healing baths – Regular cleansing of the blister can reduce the risk of infection from spreading out. By having cool bath or oatmeal baths can help in soothing the skin, ease the pain and itchiness.

Cold wet compress

Cold, wet compress – Applying the cool compress to the shingles rash help in relieving the symptoms, reduce pain and itching.

Baking soda and cornstarch paste

Baking soda and cornstarch paste – Apply the paste for several times in order to relieve itching caused by shingles rash.

Soothing lotions and creams

Soothing lotions and creams (calamine lotion)– Use soothing agents may help relieve the discomfort caused by the rash. Do avoid any scented lotions which may cause irritation to the skin. Only apply a thin layer of ointment to reduce itching and to avoid lengthen the healing process.

Healthy diet

Healthy diet – Shingles can be worsen due to a weakened immune system. Some dietary plan may help in strengthening the immune system as well as the overall health. Take a diet that boost up the function of the immune system that contains vitamin A, B, C, E and the amino acid lysine which promote healing properties.

Homeophatic

Homeophatic – Homeophatic remedies is an alternative medicine that embraces the approach of allowing the body to heal itself. But, be sure with correct diagnosis and consult with the experts to avoid any complication.

Quality rest

Quality rest – get plenty of rest and quality sleep in order for your body to have physical renewal, hormonal regulation and growth.

TREATMENTS OPTIONS TO GET RID OF SHINGLES

Currently, there are no available ways that can cure shingles. But, with current technology and research, medication may be prescribed to ease symptoms and shorten the length of infection. Do consult with the doctors first before going through any one treatment statement below to avoid any complications.

If you’d like to know more about shingles and its solution, please call us to arrange a consultation session. We are available from 8am to 12 midnight DAILY.

Call/Whatsapp: 012-662-5552

Email: contactus@premier-clinic.com

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