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Shingles or medically known as Herpes zoster is a skin disorder that manifests as a rash.  It is caused by the Varicella zoster virus and the same virus that triggers chickenpox.  Individuals who have had chickenpox already, their bodies are not fully cleared from this virus which stays dormant and reactivates as shingles under certain bodily conditions like physical or emtional stress. 

The virus causing chickenpox and shingles is a Herpes virus.  However, it is not similar to the one that causes herpes mouth sores or even the genital herpes, the sexually transmitted disease.  

Basically, shingles is not a grave condition, although it is quite painful.  But in some cases, it can lead to an unbearable complication, postherpetic neuralgia, which occurs when shingles persist beyond one month. This condition somehow stresses the skin causing it to be continuously sensitive to touch and pain even after months or years after the rash has disappeared.  And this is more common to people above 50 years old.  

Cellulitis, a bacterial infection may also complicate the blister.  When this happens, the area becomes red, warm and tender and red streaks surround the affected area.  A bothersome complication is when shingles distresses the face area, which may possibly lead to affecting the eye and eventually lead to vision loss.  Complications such as this should immediately be consulted to a health care professional.

But those conditions and the risk of other complications can be avoided through prompt treatment.  So how do we know when shingles has erupted?  

Pain, itching and a burning sensation on the skin is noticeable prior to the outbreak of the rashes.  The blisters that then develop are similar to that of chickenpox.  However, they appear condensed in the area of the involved nerve or in rare cases, nerves. The blister bursts and starts to crust over then heal.  This outbreak lasts for about three to four weeks.  The pain may still be there but the blister already gone.  Ain’t it confusing, huh?

Shingles are contagious and can be transmitted to others who haven’t had chickenpox.  But, instead of having shingles, they develop chickenpox. For those who have had chickenpox, they cannot catch the shingles infection from anybody else. Shingles are catching for as long as the blisters are still present. However, when all of the blisters are covered and crusted over, the virus will no longer multiply and spread.

Available treatment for shingles includes medicines that fight the herpes virus and steroids that alleviate the pain associated with such infection.  Aluminum acetate solution may also be used to dry up the blisters.  Vaccines are also available for persons over age 60 and booster vaccines of chickenpox for children.  It must however be noted, that people under severe medications like those with cancer or HIV, are not permitted to receive such vaccines.