Thursday, 1 June 2017

Shingles Also Attacks The Nervous System

Today's post from (see link below) talks about shingles, a form of neuropathy that is often not thought of as being nerve damage but if you've ever had an attack, you'll be pretty sure it is. It's cause by the virus varicella-zoster, which is a herpes virus and just like herpes, it will lie low for some time and then strike when your system is also at a low ebb. Most people who suffer from shingles have also had chicken pox at some time in their lives and that's one way the virus enters the body because chicken pox is also caused by varicella-zoster. For people already living with other conditions, including neuropathy, shingles can be doubly painful (and doubly depressing). Fortunately, there is a vaccine available but it won't remove shingles, it will just lessen the impact. For the full story see below.

Ever Have Chickenpox? Then You’re at Risk for Shingles. How to minimize your chances of getting this painful rash
December 14, 2016 / By Family Health Team

When you were a kid, did you scratch your way through a case of chickenpox? If so, you met the virus that causes shingles.

Called varicella-zoster, it didn’t leave after your chickenpox faded. Instead, the virus laid low in your nervous system.

For one in three adults, the zoster virus re-emerges decades later as shingles. Each year, about 1 million Americans develop the painful rash. Those over 60 are especially at risk.

“Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles at some time in their life,” says Daniel Allan, MD.

How shingles develops

Sometimes a headache, nausea, fever or chills will herald shingles’ arrival. And the area the rash will be targeting can become painful, numb or tingly a few days in advance. Once the rash hits, blisters form, along with pain described as stabbing, shooting or burning.

“The initial rash is often confused with insect bites,” says Dr. Allan. ““The pain can show up before the rash, continue through the rash and most importantly, it can continue after the rash has healed up.”

The shingles rash typically appears as a band stretching across one side of the trunk. It can develop elsewhere, however. If the rash goes near the eye, immediate care is needed to avoid eye damage.

The shingles rash often lasts for a couple of weeks

Antiviral medication will shorten the duration and pain of shingles if given right away. “Generally, we recommend that patients see their doctor within two to three days of onset. That’s when the prescribed medications are more effective,” says Dr. Allan.

It’s important to keep an oozing rash covered. You can’t spread shingles itself. But you can spread the virus, which can cause chickenpox in those who haven’t had chickenpox or haven’t been vaccinated against it.

“Anyone with active shingles should also avoid pregnant women because of risk to the fetus,” he adds. “Once all the lesions have scabbed or crusted over, you’re no longer contagious.” 

Shingles can strike at any time

Unlike chickenpox, shingles can recur — though not always in the same spot.

Shingles can and does develop in younger people. But it is riskier for older people, who are more likely to develop chronic pain from nerve damage (post-herpetic neuralgia), and for those with autoimmune diseases, because getting shingles increases their risk of stroke.

“There is a shingles vaccine recommended for adults 60 and older,” says Dr. Allan. “This vaccine is extremely useful for reducing your chances of getting shingles, although it won’t eliminate them. Even more importantly, it drastically cuts the risk of developing post-herpetic neuralgia.”

Many patients with post-herpetic neuralgia require treatment with pain relievers, nerve blocks or implanted nerve stimulators to relieve pain.

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