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While most people are acquainted with the childhood disease known as chickenpox, there are fewer people who are familiar with its grown-up sibling, shingles. Shingles is an ailment that only presents in patients who have already had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. While they are completely different rashes, shingles is simply a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, known as varicella zoster. It is unknown what causes shingles to develop, as directly, it is not contagious person to person. However, if a person has never had chicken pox and they come in contact with a person who has shingles they can develop chickenpox.
The first symptoms of shingles generally include an itching, burning, or a tingling sensation at the site of the developing rash. Unlike chickenpox, shingles usually affects only a select area of skin rather than the whole body. One to two days after the initial symptoms develop, blisters will begin to form, often presenting in a band or belt pattern. While the blisters are present, you are considered contagious and should limit your interaction with at-risk individuals. After seven to ten days, the blisters will begin to resolve and will be replaced with scabs and eventually heal. At this point, you are no longer contagious.
Since shingles is caused by a virus instead of a bacteria or fungus, the only way to treat it is with antiviral medications. For these to be effective, they should ideally be started within three days of the onset of symptoms. While these types of medications will not cure a shingles rash, they will help speed up recovery and reduce your risk of developing pain in the area after the breakout resolves. If you are over 50 and worried about developing shingles in the future, there are two different vaccines that can minimize your chances of contracting this disease. If you are interested in getting vaccinated, be sure to discuss your options with your doctor.
If you believe you may be suffering from shingles don’t hesitate to stop by one of our clinics or make an appointment.