Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, that is the same virus that causes chickenpox, canonized in the peripheral nerves. It manifests mainly in the skin in the form of blisters. The pathology is transmitted mainly by air, but “can remain in saliva and blood after suffering from shingles, so exposure to these fluids is an additional transmission route to consider,” says the Spanish Society of Pain (SEDolor).
When a person contracts chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body and can be reactivated years later in the peripheral nerves causing the appearance of the so-called shingles. It is not known for sure why this reaction occurs. This disease can appear in people of any age group, although it predominates more in the following cases:
- Patients who are over 60 years old. It is because the body has fewer defenses.
- In those who had the chickenpox virus before the age of the year, or in children who are more than five or six years old.
- People with a weakened immune system.
When you get the varicella-zoster virus, you usually notice a generally intense burning or tingling. After this symptom, blisters appear on the skin, which are characteristic of this disease. Two or three weeks after their appearance, they usually break and form small scabs in the affected area, which do not usually heal.
The area where these signs appear most commonly. It is through the region of the back, abdomen and chest, although they can also appear in the eyes, face, mouth and ears. Other symptoms that patients with herpes zoster usually present are:
- Pain in the abdomen: it can appear two or three days before the blisters erupt.
- General discomfort.
- High fever and chills.
- Ulcers in the genital region.
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Pain in the joints of the head.
If the varicella zoster virus affects a nerve located in the face it can cause difficulties in moving the facial and eye muscles, in addition to involuntary drooping of the eyelids, vision problems and deterioration in the sense of taste.
One of the ways to prevent the onset of this pathology through the vaccination of children against chickenpox. To correctly assess the presence of this virus, the doctor usually makes a physical inspection of the patient to detect possible rashes and blisters that may have appeared as a result of shingles. In cases of healthy people, treatment is usually unnecessary, except to alleviate the discomfort caused by itching and fever.
Anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to reduce the increase in body temperature and decrease pain.
Possible complications that may arise from this disease may be the following:
- The appearance of the pathology again.
- Skin infections derived from shingles.
- It can cause blindness and deafness.
- Infections such as encephalitis or sepsis, which are more serious, especially in people who have a deficit in the immune system.
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome may appear which manifests with a rash in the dermis
surrounding the ear area when the chickenpox virus affects a nerve located in the head area.
- Post herpetic neuralgia. It is defined as “the persistence of pain after the initial picture, considering a period of three months”.
What is varicella zoster? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems- and- treatments/shingles/qa/what-is-varicella-zoster
Viral Skin Diseases. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.emedicinehealth.com/image- gallery/varicella-zoster_virus_infection_on_chest_picture/images.htm