Shingles is the name of a viral infection on the skin that causes a painful blistering rash. The varicella-zoster virus causes the infection. This is the same virus that also causes chickenpox. Only people who have had chickenpox in the past can get shingles. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. About a million people get shingles every year as the risk of contracting it increases with age.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which lies dormant in the body after a person has had chickenpox. The virus can remain inactive for many years in many people, but it may become active again in some individuals, causing shingles. Scientist do not know the exact reason why the virus reactivates, but factors such as aging, stress, weakened immune system, and certain medical conditions increase that risk.
Signs and Symptoms
Understanding the characteristic manifestations of this viral infection can help the patient take appropriate action and seek medical attention. Here are the key signs and symptoms to be aware of:
- Tingling or burning sensation: The onset of shingles is often marked by a tingling or burning sensation in a specific area of the skin. This can occur before the appearance of any visible signs.
- Red rash: Shortly after the tingling sensation, a red rash develops in the affected area. The rash is typically localized and follows a band or strip pattern, commonly occurring on one side of the body.
- Fluid-filled blisters: The red rash progresses into small, fluid-filled blisters. These blisters can be painful and tender to the touch.
- Pain and discomfort: Shingles is known for causing significant pain, which can range from mild to severe. The affected area may be sensitive to even gentle touch.
- Fever: Some individuals may experience a low-grade fever accompanying the rash and other symptoms.
- Headache and fatigue: Shingles can also be accompanied by symptoms such as headache and fatigue, which can contribute to overall discomfort.
- Sensitivity to light: In certain cases, individuals with shingles may become sensitive to light, experiencing discomfort or pain when exposed to bright light sources.
Traditional Treatments for Shingles
Early treatment is crucial to minimize the severity and duration of shingles. If you suspect you or someone you care about has shingles, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.
Antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, are commonly prescribed to help reduce the pain, speed up the healing process, and prevent complications. Pain medications, such as over-the-counter analgesics or prescription-strength drugs, may also be recommended to manage the discomfort associated with shingles. Additionally, the doctor may suggest applying calamine lotion or using cold compresses to alleviate itching and pain.
In recent years, regenerative treatments have shown promise in promoting healing and reducing pain associated with shingles. These treatments aim to harness the body’s natural healing mechanisms to accelerate tissue repair. One such treatment is platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, where a concentrated solution of platelets derived from the patient’s blood is injected into the affected area. PRP contains growth factors that can stimulate tissue regeneration and decrease inflammation. Another emerging treatment is stem cell therapy, which involves using stem cells to promote tissue repair and modulate the immune response.
While regenerative treatments for shingles are still being researched and refined, they hold the potential to improve the outcomes and quality of life for individuals affected by the condition. However, it is important to note that these treatments may not be suitable for everyone, and their effectiveness can vary. Consulting with a qualified healthcare professional who specializes in regenerative medicine can provide further guidance and personalized recommendations.
Recognizing these signs and symptoms is crucial in order to seek appropriate medical care and initiate timely treatment to alleviate pain, promote healing, and reduce the risk of complications. If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect you may have shingles, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and guidance. Click here to learn more about shingles and how to treat it using new treatments.