Infectious Diseases

Myths and Facts about Shingles



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Also Known as Varicella Zoster, shingles are part of the Herpes family of Viruses. It is important note, however that everyone who has had chicken pox, is at risk of contracting shingles. The chicken pox virus lays dormant in the spinal cord until a weakened immune system reactivates the virus.

I had an outbreak when I was 24 and was misdiagnosed for 3 days until the rash came out. Not having enough information on a health condition can be very dangerous. Below are some Myths and Facts about the condition that have been confusing to a lot of people.

- Shingles are an HIV Symptom

There's some truth to this, as shingles are an indication that your immune system has been compromised. HIV compromises the immune system considerably. However a lot of factors, ranging from stress to an illness, can suppress the immune system. Certain medications can also lead to shingles. A considerable amount of young people find out about their positive HIV status after a shingles outbreak.

- Shingles affect only old people

Most people who contract shingles, mostly contract these in their old age. However, trauma, stress, HIV, or any other factors that lower the body's ability to fight disease, can lead to the development of shingles.

- The first symptom of shingles is a rash.

Like the herpes virus, the first sign is usually a sharp pain, numbness or tingling, in the area where the rash will occur, usually on one side of the body or face. Shingles normally follow a line of nerves. This is called the prodormal stage. For example, on the torso, the pain can start just below the breast and move along to the opposite side on the back. This pain can persist for about one to three days before the rash occurs. If medication is taken during this time, the worst of the illness can be avoided. Once the rash occurs it is called the eruptive stage.

- Shingles don't need to be treated medically

This is true to an extent but antiviral medicine such as acyclovir can help reduce the severity of the rash and reduce the length of the enduring pain that follows an outbreak. Shingles that are around the eyes can also cause extremely dangerous complications if not treated properly and early. The blisters are not the most painful part of the shingles. It is the pain that one gets after the outbreak that is most painful. A condition called postherpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles, and it can last for a week or even months in severe cases.

- One can only get shingles outbreak once.

Most people don't have recurring outbreaks, but people with immune systems that are extremely weak can have recurring episodes. However one cannot get an outbreak on the same area more that once, this is a very rare occurrence.

- Shingles are not contagious

Shingles are contagious when the blisters are still fresh. Once the blisters have crusted there is no risk of infecting other people, however they will be infected with chicken pox instead.

Shingles are not that dangerous if treatment is administered early. Treatment can help the blisters to heal faster and can reduce the term and severity of postherpetic neuralgia.

 

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