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Risk Factors, Symptoms, and Treatments for Shingles

Infected with Shingles
Shingles is a viral skin infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox as a child, this virus remains in your body and is suppressed and neutralized by your body's immune system.
Your body's immune system consists of antibodies, white blood cells, proteins, and other chemicals that it uses to attack and destroy foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses, and microorganisms that threaten your body's normal healthy tissues. This includes the varicella-zoster virus.
Read on for a brief guide to the risk factors, symptoms, treatments, and complications of the viral shingles infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
Shingles Risk Factors
As you age, your immune system slows down and becomes less effective in combatting viruses and bacteria. Adults over age 50 have less effective immune systems especially when their systems have been compromised by disease and transplant surgery.
The diseases and transplant surgeries that destroy a body's immune system include cancer, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, organ transplants, and bone marrow transplants. These diseases and surgeries destroy both the body's good cells as well as the bad cells and leave the body unable to heal itself.
With a weakened immune system, the varicella-zoster virus reactivates and returns as a viral skin infection.
Shingles Symptoms
The first symptoms of contracting a shingles infection are a fever, a headache, a sensitivity to light, and exhaustion. Within one to five days after the onset of these first symptoms, red blotches appear on the skin and develop into a skin rash with blisters.
Shingles blisters appear on only one side of the torso and the face and rarely cross the midline of the body. Theses blisters tingle, itch, burn, and are painful.
Shingles Progression
Shingles blisters last about 10 days, and then they turn yellow, dry up, and form scabs. These scabs can last for two to four weeks before they heal and disappear.
Shingles Treatments
Although you can’t get rid of the shingles virus once you have it, you can take medication to alleviate the symptoms and shorten the duration of the infection.
Antiviral Medications
Your doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to speed up the recovery time of a shingles infection and prevent complications. For the maximum therapeutic effect, take an antiviral drug within three days of the onset of the shingles rash and blisters.
Antihistamine Medications
Shingles disease is spread through direct contact with the fluid in the shingles blisters. An antihistamine drug can soothe the tingling and itching of the shingles lesions, which prevents you from scratching these blisters and spreading the virus.
Pain Medications
A shingles infection can be painful so a pain medication is often prescribed for relief. A pain medication can make it easier for you to be comfortable while in bed, actively moving around, and wearing clothing when you have shingles blisters.
Shingles Home Care
When infected with shingles, keep the skin lesions clean and avoid scratching them. When scratched, they can become open sores and develop a secondary bacterial infection that may lead to permanent scars.
To prevent a secondary bacterial infection, use a fast-drying liquid antiseptic on the shingles blisters and cover them with clean bandages. However, once the lesions have crusted over and formed scabs, do not use an antiseptic that will keep the lesions moist.
If you have any of the above symptoms and suspect that you may have a shingles infection, get a professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Contact the Dermatology Center of Newton-Rockdale, P.C. for a complete evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment today. We serve Covington, Georgia, and the surrounding areas.