Shingles Risk Factors

SHINGLES is a painful skin rash that blisters the skin. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is as contagious as chicken-pox since it has the same origin.

In an adult, chicken-pox can be very dangerous, sometimes fatal. Although shingles is not fatal, it can spread over the skin, creating pain, and in some case, extreme symptoms as listed below.

HERPES ZOSTER is the same virus that causes chicken-pox. In children, you will usually see small red bumps, a fever, itchiness and fatigue. Once you have had chicken-pox, the virus remains dormant in your body throughout your life.


Although you can develop shingles at any age, you are more likely to develop this condition if
* You are older than 60 * You had chickenpox before age 1 * Your immune system has been weakened by medications * Your immune system can been compromised by disease


Direct contact with the rash is contagious.


Most people may notice pain on one side of their body or a tingling or burning sensation.


Rashes that are red and patch like with small blisters will usually dry and form into crusts. These usually last 2 to 3 weeks each. br>

Some people get scarring but it is rare.


The area usually involved is a curved line that follows the nerves, stretching from the spine around to the belly or chest.

Rashes can show up on the face, ears, eyes, and mouth. It depends on the location of the nerves that are affected.


The following symptoms occur in some but not all people.
* Abdominal pain * Chills * Difficulty moving some of the muscles in the face * Drooping eyelid (ptosis) * Fever and chills * General ill-feeling * Genital lesions * Headache * Hearing loss * Joint pain * Loss of eye motion * Swollen lymph node glands * Taste problems * Vision problems


Although shingles may disappear on its own, there are medications to alleviate symptoms, especially when rashes are widespread.

An antiviral drug can reduce the pain caused by the nerves and shorten the disease.

Medications used: Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir

These should be used before blisters occur to prevent spreading.

Prednisone, a strong anti-inflammatory medicine, can be used to reduce swelling and the risk of continued pain. Sometimes these drugs do not work in all patients.

Antihistamines may be used to reduce itching.

Pain medicines, such as Zostrix cream containing capsaicin from pepper, can help to prevent postherpetic neuralgia.

Wet, cool compresses can be used to reduce pain or a soothing baths or lotions. Calamine lotion, may help to relieve itching and discomfort, just like in chicken-pox.

If you have a fever, resting in bed is recommended.


If you have reoccurring shingles or any of the following symptoms, see your doctor immediately.
* Another attack of shingles * Blindness (from affected eyes) * Deafness or hearing problems * Infection * Bacterial skin infections * Ramsay Hunt syndrome, if it has affected the nerves of your face


There is a vaccine that is recommended for children and teens who haven't had chickenpox.

Older adults can now get this vaccine to cut down on complications of shingles. Any adult over 60 or immune compromised should get the vaccine at their next annual medical exam.


As a caregiver for many years, I have personally cared for geriatric patients with this health condition.

It has been painful for these patients. They generally need help with skin rash ointments that may cover their entire body.

Pain accompanies this condition and many people suffer from depression during treatment.

Don't wait until you have stress in your life that affects your health or a medical condition that lowers your immune system.

Getting the vaccine can save you a lot of misery.

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