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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shingles--Causes and Treatments

What are shingles? Shingles is a medical condition that occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox reactivates. When this happens, the patient will experience symptoms similar to the flu, such as headache and light sensitivity, but no fever. The condition will then cause a painful or itching rash to appear on one side of the body. Similar to the chickenpox, it will blister and then scab over. The primary symptom that identifies shingles is the rash.

Anyone who has had chickenpox will carry the virus in their system and be susceptible to shingles. The shingles rash usually appears on the back and chest but can also form on the face and even around an eye. Even before the rash appears, patients will often experience sensitivity of nerves in the affected area along with pain, burning and numbness.

Pain is caused by the virus entering the roots of the nerves that cause sensation to the skin. The pain can last for 30 days, for months, or even for years. People over 50 who develop shingles have a greater risk of developing a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia which leaves them with persistent nerve problems, pain as well as headaches.

It is important to seek medical attention for shingles in order to prevent further nerve damage. People over 50 may want to consider getting the shingles vaccine which can help from getting the shingles or from a recurrence. Relief from shingles can be achieved by using cool, moist compresses, applying a paste of baking soda or cornstarch to help dry the sores, and applying antibiotic topical creams prescribed by the doctor. These will help with inflammation and itching.

People who are at greatest risk for shingles are those over 50 (the risk increases with age), and people being treated for HIV/AIDS and cancer.

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