Shingles belong to the varicella-zoster family of viruses, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox as a child, the virus may remain dormant for years in the body. The cause for activation is not clear, but since the virus tends to show up in older adults or individuals who have weak immune systems; the culprit may be the immune system. The vaccinations received as children for chickenpox will not prevent the activation of shingles in adulthood. Normally, shingles are not life threatening but they can be very painful and there is no quick cure once the blisters have festered around the torso. Shingles can be contagious if contact is made with an open sore, especially if the individual has not received a chickenpox vaccination. Shingles are also called herpes- zoster virus because the sores fall into a herpes category, but the herpes-zoster virus is not the same virus that causes herpes cold sores or other health conditions related to herpes. Health conditions, medical treatments or medications may play a role in the individual developing shingles. Certain diseases such as cancer with treatments of radiation or chemotherapy can trigger shingles because the treatments affect the body’s immune system. As our body’s age our immune systems weaken and shingles can develop as we grow older.
Shingles symptoms physically start out with pain in the area where a red rash begins to develop, eventually turning into a blister type of sore. As the blister breaks open it dries, forming a crust or scab. During the process shingles can be very painful with a burning and itching sensation. For some sufferers there may be a fever and fatigue. Shingles symptoms are the patterns of sores that travel along the nerve pathways, which is the reason for the specific placement of the sores on the body. Shingles symptoms typically show up around the torso, and occasionally on the arms or other parts of the body. If the rash or blisters appear on the face, especially around the eyes, a physician should be seen immediately to prevent complications or permanent damages. Other risks involved with shingles symptoms is continuing pain even though the blisters have healed. The condition is called postherpetic neuralgia. It happens when nerves fibers have been damaged. The damages can lead to more serious health conditions affecting the brain, causing paralysis or interference with our equilibrium and hearing functions.
Vaccines are generally used as a shingles treatment for prevention. The vaccines are not treatments for curing the condition, since the vaccine contains a live strain of the varicella-zoster virus. The vaccine is not medically recommended for individuals with weak immune systems or already infected with the virus. The drawback to the varicella-zoster vaccine is that it will not prevent shingles, but it may reduce the seriousness of the shingles condition. Healthcare’s objective is to reduce the individual’s risk for prolonged pain known as postherpetic neuralgia, which can lead to ill health conditions. The varicella-zoster vaccine or herpes vaccination is not recommended if the individuals have an allergic reaction to certain medications. Vaccinations used as shingles treatment has another side effect to the area of injection; redness with pain and in some cases there may be some swelling accompanied with headaches. Another vaccine that is normally part of our childhood immunizations is the chickenpox vaccination, called varicella. Healthy adults who have never had chickenpox should get this vaccination as a prevention to chickenpox, it will not necessarily prevent the activation of shingles. Pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant should not take either of these vaccines.