Shingles (aka herpes zoster) are rashes that occur in any part of the body. This rash often comes up in people aged 50 and over, causing severe pain. Shingles also appear like blisters on the dermatome’s skin area. But, what exactly causes shingles, and how can we best manage them?

What Causes Shingles?

Shingles is a skin disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.  If you had chickenpox or took its vaccine, you might get shingles. That’s because the shingles vaccine contains chickenpox cells.

Chickenpox may disappear over time. But, the virus lingers in the brain and spinal cord tissues. So, the sleeping virus may reappear as shingles after some years. 

How Do Shingles Reactivate in the Nervous System?

The shingles virus stays dormant in the nerve tissues. If your immune system grows weaker, the virus reactivates. 

As the virus becomes active, it spreads through the spinal cord nerves to the skin. These nerves convey messages of pressure, itching, and pain. 

These messages transfer from the spinal cord to the brain. Once the varicella-zoster virus gets to the nerve endings, it shows up as a skin rash.

How Do Shingles Affect the Nerves?

As the virus travels along the nerves, it causes severe pain. This occurs even after the rash disappears. Still, many people may no longer feel the pain after two to four weeks.

Common effects of herpes zoster on the nerves include:

Movement Difficulty

Shingles can inflame your motor nerves, which affects muscle movement. As the condition develops, it weakens the muscles around the rash area. About 1 to 5 percent of people with herpes zoster have muscle weakness.  

Pain or Postherpetic Neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is an intense pain that lingers after the rashes heal. This condition occurs in about 18 percent of people with shingles. Postherpetic neuralgia disappears within a year, but some never recover.

Facial Nerve Damage

Shingles can also affect the head nerves. Signs of this condition include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Paralysis on one side of the face
  • Issues with taste
  • Loss of hearing
  • Ear blisters
  • Vertigo

Other Common Symptoms of Shingles

Besides pain, other signs of shingles include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness
  • Itching
  • Reddish rash
  • Blisters
  • Sensitivity to brightness
  • High response to touch
  • Headache

How to Best Manage Shingles Pain?

Pain from shingles is often intense, but there are things you can do to minimize it. These include:

  • Engaging in exercise
  • Eating balanced diet
  • Regular resting
  • Wearing silk or cotton clothing (to reduce irritation)
  • Applying ice to the sores

Can Shingles be Treated?

Yes. Vaccination and early treatment can reduce the risk of complications. Failure to treat in time results in postherpetic neuralgia. This condition happens long after the blisters heal.

Getting shingles usually means that your immune system is not in its best condition. A healthy lifestyle like exercise, rest, and balanced diets can help with that. 

If you want the best approach to your shingles recovery, fill out this form below. Schedule an appointment today so that you can live a pain-free life tomorrow.

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