At some point, almost everyone gets chicken pox in their lives and recovers, but it can have a very unwelcome residual effect years later.
Both chicken pox and shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Once a person has recovered completely from chicken pox, the virus will stay dormant in some nerve cells in the body. In most cases it is never seen again, but in some situations the virus can wake up years later and cause what is known as “shingles.”
What Does Shingles Do?
In most cases, shingles will begin in the form of a rash, usually on the side of your body or face. Eventually, this rash will turn to blisters and then scabs after just a few days. It will completely disappear in a couple of weeks.
Even before you develop the shingles rash, there are a few symptoms that may indicate that you are about to break out. If you have had chicken pox before and you have any of the following symptoms, see a doctor:
- Headache or light sensitivity
- A feeling of flu without a fever
- Itching, tingling or even pain in a part of your body
- Development of a rash where you are experiencing the discomfort or pain
- Dizziness or weakness
- Problems with cognition
- Problems with eyesight
Who Is at Risk of Shingles?
If you have ever had chicken pox before, then you are at risk of getting shingles. Additionally, if you are over 50 you have a higher chance of developing shingles.
There is a vaccine available for those who have had chicken pox and are over 50. Although it doesn’t prevent you from getting shingles, it can greatly reduce the risks associated with it and help you recover faster if you do get it.
The reasons why the varicella-zoster virus awakens to cause shingles is unknown. It can be awakened by a compromised or weakened immune system.
If you have had chicken pox before, make sure your doctor knows about it, especially if you develop an illness that weakens your immune system.
How Can Shingles Be Treated? Are Others at Risk?
Shingles is incurable, but undergoing treatment can greatly reduce the length of time that you suffer from the illness and also reduce the chance of complications.
Shingles can be treated using antiviral medicines. These are taken to relieve the pain and to shorten the duration of the illness. In case you end up with long term pain and complications from shingles, there are pain medicines, antidepressants and topical creams available.
See a doctor if you feel that you are developing any of the symptoms of shingles and make sure you do not come into contact with anyone who has not had either shingles or chicken pox yet as there is a chance the virus can be spread.
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