Did you know that 1 in 3 people will develop shingles at some point during their lifetime? In the United States, there are an estimated 200,000 cases of shingles documented every year. While prevented by vaccination, it is important to know how to avoid the virus. Read this article to learn more about shingles and the dangers it presents.
Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that is the cause behind chicken pox.
While there was controversy in the past over whether having chicken pox led to contracting shingles, it has since been proven to be false. While having chicken pox in the past will put you at risk, varicella-zoster virus can be spread to anyone, regardless of the circumstances.
Shingles is NOT the same virus as chicken pox. It is important to know the difference between the two. Doctors are unsure what triggers the onset of this virus. Those with compromised immune systems as well as those suffering from stress are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Those whom are 35 or older are more at risk as well.
Keeping Your Eyes Open: The Symptoms
One thing about the shingles virus that is often overlooked is that it entails extreme pain in most people. Often, one of the earliest symptoms is nerve pain and sharp pains. This is due to the fact that shingles targets the nerve pathways throughout the body. It is also common to notice discoloration and blotchy patches on the skin.
The most common symptoms include:
- Blisters: Fluid-filled and itchy, they can develop for several days.
- The “shingles belt”: Shingles often forms what looks like a “belt” around the waist of blisters and discoloration.
- Sensitivity to touch
- Numbness/tingling throughout the body
- Sensitivity to light
- Extreme fatigue
There is no definitive cure for the virus. However, antiviral drugs can be prescribed to speed up the healing process. Along with the antivirals, doctors will often consider prescribing a topical patch or spray to relieve the pain and itch, in addition to a steroid. In extreme cases, medications containing narcotics are prescribed. Shingles can range from mild to moderate, so treatment varies depending on person. Natural remedies are always options as well! Consider some of the following:
- Taking a bath with colloidal oatmeal or cornstarch
- Constant use of cool compress to rashes and blisters
- Calamine lotion
- Avoiding foods that irritate shingles: high sugar foods, gelatin, nuts, refined carbohydrates and foods high in saturated fat
If you suspect that you may have Shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Right now, there are two shingles vaccines to consider when looking into prevention. The CDC recommends that anyone over the age of 50 get vaccinated. In general, it is good to consider getting vaccinated at a much earlier time, being the illness can be detrimental to anyone’s health.