Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is more common than you might think. About one in three people in the United States alone will develop shingles in their lifetime. Over one million people get shingles during any given year, and if you’ve ever gotten chickenpox, there’s a possibility that you’ll develop shingles too. Here’s everything you need to know.
5. What Are Shingles?
Let’s start by explaining what shingles are. Shingles are skin rashes caused by the reactivation of the virus known as varicella-zoster, which is also known to cause chickenpox.
The symptoms of this condition start as a burning, itchy feeling on either the right or left side of the torso. This is followed by painful rashes. You may also experience low fevers and headaches.
Next, you will notice the appearance of blisters filled by fluids, especially along the nerve attacked by the virus. Shingles usually take the patterns left behind by pinched nerves or sciatica in the neck running down the arm. In some cases, shingles may also erupt in your eyes or face, which is a far more dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that shingles are contagious and can be passed on to people who aren’t immune to chickenpox when you come into direct contact with them. In this case, the infected person will instead develop chickenpox. Therefore, you’d be better off avoiding people with a weak immune system, people who haven’t developed chickenpox, newborns, and pregnant women when you notice you have shingles, or you start to develop eruptions or blisters on your body.
4. How Do You Get Shingles?
The actual cause of shingles is unknown, though health experts say the causative virus has the ability to remain inactive for decades in the nerve tissues surrounding the brain or the spinal cord.
For this reason, the virus can recur decades later if the victim’s immune system is weakened by infections that come with age. Also, the immune system may become weakened due to diseases or medical treatments.
Because of this, it’s always recommended to consult your doctor when symptoms start appearing, especially if you’re not sure if you suffered from chickenpox in your childhood. In case you don’t remember, you’ll have to get tested through a varicella titer test, which will show whether you’ve had exposure to the chickenpox virus in your life.