Shingles (Herpes Zoster or Zoster) is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. It’s caused by the Varicella Zoster Virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Varicella Zoster Virus stay dormant (inactive) in your body and can later resurface as shingles, with no warning.
Shingles can cause long-lasting nerve pain and other serious complications.
What is the symptom for shingles?
Shingles usually starts as a single painful rash (stripe) around either the left or the right side of the body or face.
The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 – 10 days and clears up within 2 – 4 weeks.
In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and looks similar to a chickenpox rash.
There was great variability in pain density, where 96%of patients experienced acute pain and 42% reported that their worst zoster pain was “horrible” or “excruciating”.
Shingles serious consequences
Acute pain is the most common symptom of shingles whereas chronic pain is the most common complication of shingles. Post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is chronic pain that follows acute shingles lasting for at least 3 months.
Other serious complications
Other serious complications of shingles are:
- Hearing loss
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome
- Brain infection (encephalitis)
- Bacterial super infection
- Motor neuron palsies
Allodynia is a distressing and debilitating pain caused by even the slightest touch.
- Chronic Nerve Pain
Patients have described PHN as burning, throbbing, stabbing, shooting and or sharp pain.
PHN can be difficult to manage and refractory to treatment and can persist for months or even years. As people get older, they are more likely to develop PHN, and the pain is more likely to be severe.
For some people, this nerve pain can get in the way to normal day-to-day activities such as walking, sleeping and social activities.
- Visual Loss
Who is at risk for shingles?
Approximately 99.5% of the U.S. population aged ≥ 40 years has evidence of a previous varicella zoster virus infection; therefore, almost every older adult are at risk for shingles, although many cannot recall a history of chickenpox.
- According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetimes.
- The risk increases as you get older. This is especially true if you’re over 50 years of age.
We have no way to predict:
- When the varicella virus will reactivated
- Who will develop shingles
- How severe any individual case may be
The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain that can follow shingles is to get vaccinated.