What causes Shingles?
When a person has chickenpox, the virus (herpes zoster) never leaves the body.
It simply retreats into the nerve roots where it usually lies dormant and causes
no further problems (often forever).
But for about 1 in 10 (about 1 million Americans each year), the virus becomes active later
in life and begins to reproduce and travel along the nerves until they reach the
skin. We refer to the resulting pain and rash as Shingles.
Is there a vaccine for the chickenpox virus?
Yes, there is a chickenpox vaccine that is around 85% effective at preventing
the recipient from getting either chickenpox or Shingles.
Is shingles contagious?
Shingles itself is not contagious - a person with Shingles cannot give it to
another person. But someone with Shingles can pass the chickenpox virus
to someone else who has never had it or been vaccinated against it.
In a nutshell, a person with Shingles can give another person chickenpox, but
Who is at greatest risk of getting Shingles?
Only people who have had chickenpox in the past can get Shingles. Most cases of
Shingles occur in people 60 years of age and older, but younger people can and
do get it.
Stress and a weakened immune system seem to be the leading causes of the
development of Shingles.
What are the symptoms of Shingles?
Shingles causes pain in the affected area of the body. This pain can be
severe and last for several weeks. An unpleasant itchy rash typically covers a
relatively small area of the body, and only on one side. It usually lasts a
couple of weeks.
The pain usually develops a few days before the rash, making it difficult to distinguish
Shingles from other, more common ailments.
It's is very important to see your doctor immediately after you first notice the
pain because the medications used to treat Shingles are most effective if taken
within 48 hours.
What treatment options are available?
Anti-viral medications are available that can stop the reproduction of the chickenpox
virus and shorten the length of the Shingles outbreak.
The usual pain relieving medications are often ineffective for Shingles pain,
but there are prescription pain relievers that can help somewhat.
The discomfort associated with the rash can be relieved with creams containing capsaicin
or allergy relief ingredients.
Is there a cure for Shingles?
At the present time there is no cure for Shingles. The herpes zoster virus
remains in the nerve roots forever so additional Shingles outbreaks can occur at
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