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This Month In Health
  • Ever Had Chickenpox?
    Before the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in 1995, most people got the virus at some point in their life. However, we haven’t seen the end of chickenpox. At any time, the virus can re-emerge as the painful virus shingles. Read >>
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  • Learning about Lupus
    It mystifies its sufferers and puzzles scientists. With lupus, a faulty immune response triggers widespread inflammation that can harm various body systems. What are the possible causes of lupus, the common symptoms, and the proposed treatments? Read >>
  • Sweet to the Taste, Sour to the Waist
    Almost every processed food on grocery store shelves contains some amount of added sugar. As a result, your body craves it. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re addicted to it without realizing it. Why is it important to leave sugar on the store shelf? Keep reading to find out. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Ever Had Chickenpox?

Then you’re at risk for shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus.

Before the chickenpox vaccine was introduced in 1995, most people got the virus at some point in their life. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, chickenpox causes an itchy rash to spread all over the body. Once a rite of passage, most children today are vaccinated against chickenpox.

However, we haven’t seen the end of chickenpox. Because years after getting over the rash, the virus remains dormant in the body. At any time, the virus can re-emerge as the painful virus shingles.

Pain & Suffering

The shingles rash can appear anywhere on your body, from head to toe. Thankfully, it doesn’t usually show up everywhere. In most cases, shingles occur on just one side of the torso in a strip of blisters.

While some people have a mild case, others experience extreme pain. Once shingles set in, it may hurt to touch the area or to move the body. The pain may feel like a burning or tingling sensation. For some people, the pain is so awful that it’s mistaken for kidney, heart, or lung problems.

And though pain may be the first symptom, it isn’t always the only symptom. A few days after the pain develops, most people develop a red rash. In the coming days, blisters form. These may break open, get crusty, and itch. Along with this painful rash, you may develop other unwanted symptoms. From a headache to fever and fatigue to sudden sensitivity to light, the symptoms typically last anywhere from two to six weeks but can last longer.

More Than Chickenpox

Not everyone who gets chickenpox during their childhood develops shingles. Currently, it’s not clear why the varicella-zoster virus reactivates in some and not others. Researchers suspect it has to do with immune strength. They believe shingles is more likely to arise in those with immune systems that aren’t ready to fight off infections. That would explain why shingles affects so many people over the age of 50 and those undergoing cancer treatments or taking immune-suppressing medications.

If you’ve never had chickenpox or the vaccine, shingles can be contagious. That said, direct contact with the shingles rash won’t result in shingles. It will cause chickenpox. Therefore, it’s best to avoid physical contact with people while you have shingles. Getting chickenpox is especially dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, and those with weak immune systems.

Dangerous Complications

If you suspect you have shingles, call your doctor for evaluation. Shingles isn’t life-threatening, but the virus can cause complications, especially if you’re older than 60 or have a weak immune system.

Sometimes, the rash appears on the face or near your eye. Left untreated, a shingles infection in the eye can cause permanent eye damage and vision loss. Unfortunately, even after the blisters are gone and the skin has healed, some people still experience pain. The skin’s nerves become damaged and confused to the point they continue to send pain messages to your brain.

Additionally, infection may develop in the blisters if they aren’t carefully treated. And in rare cases, shingles may lead to neurological problems. These include facial paralysis, brain inflammation, hearing loss, and balance problems.

Medical Treatment

Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to speed healing and help prevent complications. If your pain is severe, medications, injections, creams, sprays, or skin patches can help bring relief.

The best medication for shingles, however, is prevention. If you’re over the age of 50, talk with your doctor about the shingles vaccine. Getting the vaccine doesn’t offer guaranteed protection. But it lessens the duration and severity of your symptoms if you wind up with shingles.

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