Shingles (also referred to as herpes zoster) is a viral infection that is often contracted by older adults (over 60 years of age) or individuals of any age with a weakened immune system. The first symptoms of the shingles virus commonly include body aches similar to flu symptoms followed by a painful skin rash that develops into blisters. This virus is not considered contagious. Individuals who have at one time in their life had chickenpox are the only ones who can contract the shingles virus. There is no cure for shingles, but treatment is available and recommended to lessen symptoms. There is also a vaccine to prevent shingles, which was approved by the FDA in 2006.
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection that can be contracted at any age with a weakened immune system; however, it is most often contracted by adults over the age of 60. The symptoms of the shingles virus tend to develop in stages. This virus is not considered contagious and only those individuals who at one time in their life had chickenpox can contract shingles. There is no known cure for shingles but treatment is available to lessen symptoms. There is also a vaccine to prevent shingles was approved by the FDA in 2006.
If an individual had chickenpox during their lifetime, they may contract the shingles virus because the varicella zoster virus (VZV) is responsible for both viruses. After a person has recovered from the chickenpox, VZV actually remains dormant in the body and reappears as the body’s immune system weakens due to age, stress, or illness. Statistics show that about 10 percent of the people who had chickenpox during their lifetime will contract shingles. Doctors are not sure why only a percentage of the population who had chickenpox contract shingles.
The shingles virus actually appears in stages.
During the first stage, a person tends to experience flu like symptoms (fever, headache, chills, or upset stomach) followed by a tingling or painful area on one side of the body. During the second stage the area of the body where tingling or pain occurred, a rash will appear (this usually occurs within one to five days – however, there are instances where a person gets a mild rash or even no rash). During the third stage of the virus, those who have developed a rash will see the rash turn into fluid filled blisters which commonly crust over within a two to four week period. These blisters may leave scars.
If a person feels they may have contracted shingles, they should seek medical help as soon as possible. The shingles virus itself is not considered deadly, but if left untreated it can be extremely painful and complications may occur. Doctors can commonly diagnose shingles by looking at the rash or by taking a scraping or swab of fluid from blister for testing at a medical laboratory.