Shingles is a painful skin rash that occurs most often on one side of the trunk or face and is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The rash usually takes several weeks to settle and appears mostly in the form of a band. The rash is more prominent on the skin of the face and the trunk. It also commonly occurs on one side of the abdomen.
Incidence of Shingles
Shingles usually affects people who are above the age of 50. Shingles, however, can also affect the younger age group. It is also common in people with a weak or suppressed immune system.
Shingles is contagious
Chickenpox is caused by a virus known as varicella zoster virus. When a person gets chicken pox, this virus lives in the body of the person in a dormant state. The virus resides in the cell bodies of the nerve. It can live in this inactive state for several years or even for several decades. In 10 to 20 per cent of cases, this virus becomes active again after the person crosses 50 years of age. When reactivated, the virus multiplies and spreads along the nerve in which it has been lying in a dormant or an inactive state. This causes the development of the painful red rash that is the characteristic symptom of shingles.
You can get shingles only if you have been affected by chickenpox before. Shingles is definitely contagious. But if a person has not been infected by chickenpox before and he comes in contact with a person suffering from shingles, then the varicella zoster virus leads to the development of chickenpox in this person. Once infected, however, these people have the potential to develop shingles later in life.
Development of Shingles
Shingles starts with intense burning pain, stinging pain or a tingling sensation along the course of the affected nerve. This is accompanied by fever and a general sense of being unwell. After 2 to 3 days of suffering from this intense pain, there is appearance of a red rash on the skin. The rash is more prominent on the trunk, abdomen and the face of the affected individual. This red rash is very painful. The pain is aggravated by even the slightest touch, such as the touch of bedclothes. The rash begins as small red bumps. Later on the bumps are filled with a cloudy filled. This gives them the appearance of red blisters. The blisters then break open to form a crusty surface. Once crusts appear, the blisters are no longer contagious. The blisters take between 3 to 5 days to develop. The development of rash usually stops after 5 days. However, it can take up to several days for the skin to heal and look normal.
Post herpetic Neuralgia
Post herpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles. This is an extremely painful and debilitating condition. It is more common in people over the age of 50. It is also common in people with a weak immune system.
Progression of shingles. A cluster of small bumps (1) turns into blisters (2) that resemble chickenpox lesions. The blisters fill with pus, break open (3), crust over (4), and finally disappear. This process takes four to five weeks. A painful condition called post-herpetic neuralgia can sometimes occur. This condition is thought to be caused by damage to the nerves (5), and can last from weeks to years after the rash disappears.
- a) skin surface
- b) nerve fiber
- c) awakened virus
- d) dormant virus