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Because my daughter-in-law was just diagnosed with shingles, I was doing some research on this condition. It is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It can occur anywhere on your body, but most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso. My lucky daughter-in-law got it on her head … ON HER HEAD! She's not an average case though. She got chicken pox twice when she was young.
I read that there are about 1 million new cases per year in the U.S. and almost one out of every three people will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. Approximately 50% of people who develop shingles are age 60 or older.
Most people who develop shingles will have only a single episode, but there are some people who have recurring episodes.
Symptoms Can Include: Pain, tender skin, and the rash, fever, chills, nausea, body aches typically on the torso or face.
Early signs: Itching, burning and/or stinging sensation will precede the appearance of the rash (usually a few days before).
Older adults and people with a weakened immune system are at greatest risk. Only those who have previously had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life.
Cause(s): Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox).
To Diagnose: Singles is most often diagnosed by your doctor solely based on the appearance of the rash.
Is it Contagious: The virus that causes shingles can be transmitted by direct contact with the fluid from the blisters in the rash. Immunocompromised individuals and pregnant women who have never had chickenpox should avoid contact with people who have active shingles. It can not be transmitted by coughing or sneezing and is not contagious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has dried and developed crusting, it is not generally considered contagious.
If someone who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine has direct contact with the fluid from the rash, they may develop chickenpox, but no immediate shingles.
Treatment: Treated with antiviral medication and pain medication.
Holistic/Home Treatment: Topical calamine lotion can be applied to the rash to treat the itching. Cool, wet compresses against the rash can be soothing. Some people find a compress with aluminum acetate solution (Burow's solution or Domeboro) helpful. Oatmeal baths may provide relief for itching as well. Eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C. Maintain good personal hygiene, avoid scratching the rash and try to keep the rash area clean to prevent a secondary bacterial infection. Cover the rash to decrease the risk of transmission of the virus to others.
How Long Does It Last: An acute shingles outbreak may vary in duration, but can last anywhere between two to four weeks. In some cases, it can last longer.
Vaccine: Yes there is a vaccine available for certain individuals to help prevent shingles.
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