If you’re like most people, you have probably experienced the uncomfortable feeling of chickenpox as a child. The very same virus causes shingles. Shingles is a painful skin disease that results in the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, known as varicella-zoster. Fifty percent of Americans will have had shingles by the time they are eighty.
After you have chickenpox, the scars go away but the virus stays with you for life. This virus hides out in nerve cells located in your spine and has the ability to reactivate itself. If the virus senses that your immune system is down, shingles can attack.
The symptoms of shingles are usually noticeable and happen in different stages. An outbreak can begin with a headache, sensitivity to light, or flu-like symptoms. After that, it continues with a burning, itching, or tingling sensation on your body – mostly on your back, chest, rib cage, or face. Blisters appear next and are found in a cluster in one specific area. These blisters can erupt and turn into open sores that take a week or two to crust over and another few weeks to disappear. Shingles can be rather painful, especially if clothing covers them.
You can attempt to prevent shingles in two ways: with the chickenpox vaccine or with the shingles vaccines. Adults over the age of fifty are able to receive the shingles vaccine; while it does not guarantee that you will not get shingles, it does lower your chances.
There is no cure for shingles, but there are many ways to speed up the healing process. What is most important is that you take care of yourself so that your body can heal. Good hygiene is extremely important as it can prevent the continuation of bacterial infection. If you are diagnosed with shingles, make sure you are complying with the following guidelines:
- Take a bath daily
- Keep your fingernails clean and well-trimmed
- Use cool, wet compresses on your blisters
- Keep your sores clean
- Eating mushrooms, peppers, and beans can speed up the healing
- Invest in medicine that will stop the itching
- Ask your doctor about pain medication
Research & Community Education