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Shingles Information

  • Herpes zoster, colloquially known as shingles, is the reactivation of varicella zoster virus, leading to a crop of painful blisters over the area of a dermatome. It occurs very rarely in children and adults, but its incidence is high in the elderly (over 60), as well as in any age group of immunocompromised patients. It affects some 500,000 people per year in the United States. Treatment is generally with antiviral drugs such as aciclovir. Many patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia which is often difficult to manage...
  • In some patients, herpes zoster can reactivate subclinically with pain in a dermatomal distribution without rash. This condition is known as zoster sine herpete and may be more complicated, affecting multiple levels of the nervous system and causing multiple cranial neuropathies, polyneuritis, myelitis, or aseptic meningitis.

    Often, pain is the first symptom. This pain can be characterized as stinging, tingling, numbing, or throbbing, and can be pronounced with quick stabs of intensity. Then 2-3 crops of red lesions develop, which gradually turn into small blisters filled with serous fluid. A general feeling of unwellness often occurs. In some cases, the rash does not form blisters, but has an appearance much like urticaria ("hives").

    As long as the blisters have not dried out, HZ patients may transmit the virus to others. This could lead to chickenpox in people (mainly young children) who are not yet immune to this virus.

    Shingles blisters are unusual in that they only appear on one side of the body. That is because the chickenpox virus can remain dormant for decades, and does so inside the spinal column or a nerve fiber. If it reactivates as shingles, it affects only a single nerve fiber, or ganglion, which can radiate to only one side of the body. The blisters therefore only affect one area of the body and do not cross the midline. They are most common on the torso, but can also appear on the face (where they are potentially hazardous to vision) or other parts of the body.

    The rash and pain usually subside within 3 to 5 weeks. The most common chronic complication of herpes zoster is postherpetic neuralgia. Pain that persists for longer than one to three months after resolution of the rash is generally accepted as the sign of postherpetic neuralgia. Sometimes serious effects including partial facial paralysis (usually temporary), ear damage, or encephalitis may occur. Shingles on the upper half of the face (the first branch of the trigeminal nerve) may result in eye damage and require urgent ophthalmological assessment. Ocular complications occur in approximately one half of patients with involvement of the ophthalmic division of the trigeminal nerve. These complications include mucopurulent conjunctivitis, episcleritis, keratitis and anterior uveitis. Cranial nerve palsies of the third, fourth and sixth cranial nerves may occur, affecting extraocular motility.

    Since shingles is a reactivation of a virus contracted previously?often decades earlier?it cannot be induced by exposure to another person with shingles or chickenpox. Those with active blisters, however, can spread chickenpox to others who have never had that condition and who have not been vaccinated against it.

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Health Blogs

This will not be a downer at all. As you will see, much of what you do in your fifties is about prevention and staying healthy. Read on my friends to see what you may have coming your way in your fifties.
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Shingles may significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, particularly for people who suffer from the painful skin disease before the age of 40, according to a new study published in Neurology. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox. ... Read More »
Not surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just come out with data indicating we are now at a 15 year high of measles cases here in the United States. Apparently, there were a total of 222 cases and 17 measles outbreaks reported to the CDC in 2011, up from about only 60 cases just the year before. And while we are ... Read More »

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