What is Herpes Zoster
Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is a disease caused by the viral agent of chickenpox that reactivate causing painful skin rashes and blisters in localized areas of the body. Viral agent responsible of shingles is varicella zoster virus (VZV).
Initially VZV causes chickenpox and after the patient recovers from it the virus goes dormant in nerve cells. Later in the lifetime of the host varicella zoster virus reactivate and migrates to the skin where it causes the annoying symptoms that characterize shingles.
How many suffer from this condition in Australia
According to kamagrafaq.net, one in three Australians suffer from shingles in his lifetime, with a major risk to getting the disease over the sixties.
- Herpes zoster is a chronic but treatable disease that normally can create some concerns in older patients;
- Of the 438 deaths caused by shingles in Australia between 1997 and 2016 83% of deaths occurred in people older than 80.
Herpes Zoster Symptoms
Symptoms of shingles start with localized pain, followed by skin rash and blisters after some days. Others symptoms may present as fatigue, fever and light sensitivity. Symptoms may last from two weeks to more than a month.
- Localized Pain: It usually affects the nerve root of the area affected by Herpes Zoster. This type of pain does not affect other areas of the body, but it is an acute and very uncomfortable pain.
- Skin Rash: This symptom can be controlled with some itchy cream. Doctors recommend acyclovir cream also known as Zovirax.
- Blisters: The blisters appear as the body’s natural form to try to cure the area affected by Herpes Zoster. It is not advisable to scratch or pop the blisters as these can cause the infection to spread through other areas of the body.
The long term effects of Herpes Zoster
Usually there aren’t consequences associated with herpes zoster but sometimes people undergoes a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia. It affects 10 to 18% of people with shingles. After skin symptomatology clear up the pain associated with them remains.
The reason of this occurrence is due to damage to nerves caused by VZV virus. This condition can last a very long time, even years, and the resulting pain can be very disabling for patients. Other rare consequences of shingles are:
- Eye and hearing complications
- Cerebral edema (encephalitis)
- Skin Infections
Who can get infected with Herpes Zoster
People suffering from an outbreak of shingles cannot infect other people who already contracted the virus because the virus is already present and dormant in these subjects.
Outbreak of shingles are not predictable, nor are the causes of it well understanded. Some studies show that people with compromised immune responses have a major rate of recurrence and a greater risk to contract complications from shingles.
This is particularly true for HIV infected patients, with a recurrence rate three times higher than in sane population. An australian study demonstrates that after eight years of the first outbreak, rate of recurrence is at 4% in males and 7% in female population. This rate in HIV patients is of 22%. Shingles is also more likely to occur in older people as is the risk to get complication.
How Herpes Zoster is detected in people
Doctors conduct an examination on symptomatology and to confirm his working diagnosis prescribes a skin swab test. Herpes zoster is diagnosed accurately only by the analysis of tissues taken from the blisters.
Effective treatment for this condition
Treatments for shingles includes antivirals and painkillers to help relieve pain. Australian guidelines suggest the use of valaciclovir and famciclovir antiviral medicines.
For treatment of acute pain in shingles the official therapeutic guidelines recommend paracetamol and in more severe cases prescribe the use of prednisolone. In rare cases doctors may prescribe amitriptyline and oxycodone to relieve acute pain.
Natural treatment or with natural medicines help reduce itching and the appearance of more blisters. These are some of the most recommended natural treatments:
- Creams, lotions and other topical product are widely used to relieve itching caused by skin rash. A common natural ingredient used in herpes zoster external use is capsaicin, active substance in hot chili peppers.
- Tea tree, eucalyptus and chamomile essential oils have similar effects of capsaicin and remedies based on these oils can be used to get the same benefits. It’s effect applies to easing the pain in areas affected by shingles due to anti-inflammatory properties.
- A common remedy for itchiness is holding itching skin with cold clothes or compresses.
Even a cool bath can cut symptoms and helps to reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other people.
How to prevent Herpes Zoster
The best medical tool of prevention for herpes zoster is vaccination. It’s very effective and safe but cannot be used for people affected by some form of immunodeficiency.
Vaccination also helps to prevent complications from shingles and even when disease starts after being vaccinated its symptomatology is greatly diminished thanks to the vaccine.
Australian National Immunisation Program provides free vaccination for shingles to people with over 70 years old.
Other way to stop Herpes zoster transmission is by taking some precautions and avoid direct contact with infected people blisters and sharing body fluids such as saliva.
Shingles is a disease that can be annoying and only in some cases can lead to major health problems. It’s important to avoid behaviours that can produce spreading of infection and it’s always better to talk to a doctor in case of outbreaks.