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What is Shingles?

The subject of aging often brings to mind various types of health problems and undesirable physical conditions. One that is particularly disturbing to anyone that’s ever had chickenpox is shingles. This article discusses what shingles is, what it has to do with chickenpox and what can be done to prevent it.


Shingles is a condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. The difference between the two is that shingles are caused by a reactivation of the original virus and unlike chickenpox, it can be very painful for anyone that’s afflicted. The pain is the result of a skin rash that eventually forms blisters. It’s a common condition in older adults and usually clears up within a few weeks.

Although it’s not usually dangerous to healthy people, it can cause gnat misery during an attack and lead to serious complications, especially for someone who is pregnant.  According to the Nerve Pain Guide, in more serious cases, shingles can cause vision problems, hearing problems, pneumonia and brain inflammation. These types of cases require antiviral therapy and referrals to the appropriate specialists.

Shingles may develop only after you have had an initial case of chickenpox, but the virus can spread from an infected person to others who have never had it. This would make them susceptible to chickenpox, rather than shingles. Although it can appear at any age, it’s far more common in people over 50 years of age and in individuals with weak immune systems, such as those suffering from HIV or undergoing chemotherapy.

Shingles can be difficult to diagnose before visible signs of the disease appear. It usually begins with unusual sensations such as itching, burning or tingling in an area of skin on one side of the body. A painful rash will eventually form, spanning one side of the trunk (left or right), around the waistline. Blisters will tend to erupt along specific nerve paths. Other symptoms may include fever, headaches, chills and an upset stomach. Shingles contact with fluid from the blisters. Shingles will often leave an imprint on the nervous system, causing prolonged headaches and nerve problems. Permanently damage nerves, chronic pain, and depression are issues that may continue to affect a person for many months or years will often leave an imprint on the nervous system, causing prolonged headaches and nerve problems. Permanently damage nerves, chronic pain, and depression are issues that may continue to affect a person for many months or years.

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Unlike chickenpox, people can get shingles more than once. However, it only comes back in about 2 percent of those who get it. This figure rises to 2 percent in those who have AIDS. It should be noted that the vaccine is only partially effective, meaning that although it decreases the chances of developing shingles, it does not eliminate the possibility.

Shingles is more common than you may think. Approximately 50 percent of all Americans will develop it by the time they are 80 years old. Although it can’t be passed from one person to another, the virus can be transmitted through contact with fluid from the blisters. It usually takes 7 to 10 days to run its course, although the blisters may take several weeks to completely disappear. As frustrating as shingles can be, the pain associated with the rash will begin to subside as it heals.

Although it will eventually disappear without treatment, the amount of time this takes depends on the strength of the person’s immune system. Because a weak immune system can also be the result of stress or advanced age, it’s recommended that people get the vaccine before they become susceptible to it. Although it is possible to develop shingles as a result of the chickenpox vaccine, the chances for this are considered very slim and the symptoms are much milder than those of someone who had chickenpox.

Author Bio:

Maggie Martin is completing her PhD in Cell Biology, works as a lab tech for Mybiosource.com and contributes content on Biotech, Life Sciences, and Viral Outbreaks. Follow on Twitter @MaggieBiosource

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