red marks on face

Part of the infections people often experience in life is chickenpox, which rarely occurs again after healing from this virus. But if the chickenpox is somehow reactivated sometime in the future, then it can lead to shingles, a painful rash that can wreak havoc to one's routine in more ways than one. 

What is Shingles?

Shingles are a common side effect of chickenpox. It is also known as herpes zoster and is characterized by painful rashes that are red in color. The rashes are painful and itchy, and they can be accompanied by severe pain. Keep in mind that despite the name of the virus, shingles are not the same as herpes in any way. 

The virus can remain inactive in the body for many years, and patients can experience outbreaks that are triggered by some stressor. The stressors can be physical, emotional, or viral in nature. Most of the time, shingles will occur in people who have suppressed immune systems, and this could be the result of chemotherapy treatment or autoimmune diseases.

What Causes Shingles?

Shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus remains dormant in the nerves until some stressor triggers a flare-up. Once you have the virus, you will always be susceptible to shingles. The following are risk factors for getting shingles:

  • Age - Younger people are more likely to have shingles than older people, and the risk begins to decline at age of 60-years-old;
  • Immune Status - People with compromised immune systems and autoimmune diseases have an increased risk;
  • Sex - Women are more likely to get shingles.

When someone is diagnosed with shingles, they will be given antiviral medications to help shorten the severity of the disease and shorten the recovery period. Physical therapy can help with the pain and stiffness that accompany shingles.

Preventing Shingles

The only way to prevent shingles is to prevent chickenpox, which means getting the right vaccinations can help you in the long run. People who already have shingles can prevent another outbreak by getting their immune systems back on track. This can be done by getting treated for conditions such as HIV, hepatitis C, and other infections.

Shingles can be painful and annoying, but there are a few things that you can do to help you deal with the pain. If you have shingles, you should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Avoid stress;
  • Stay hydrated;
  • Don’t scratch the rash;
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever;
  • Try to avoid having sex until the rash goes away;

If you have a compromised immune system, it's best to eat nutritious foods packed with vitamin C to help boost your immunity!

The Bottom Line: Understanding Shingles and What to Do 

If you think you have shingles, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. People who have shingles will usually experience pain and itching in the form of blisters, though treatment for shingles depends on the symptoms. Whatever the case may be, it's always important to consult with a doctor first when dealing with shingles.

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