Shingles is a widespread yet particular disease. It’s not contagious, however, it is related to the same virus that causes chickenpox. The infection develops in two stages: chickenpox (the primary infection) and herpes zoster (a secondary condition). In simple words, shingles and chicken pox are the two steps of the same disease. Shingles develop when there is the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus in the body.
Like other diseases caused by herpes viruses, shingles stay permanently in the body. After chickenpox, there is a lifelong immunity to the virus, but when the immune system weakens, the virus can reactivate and strike again. The virus has several different names: Varicella zoster, Herpes zoster or Herpes virus type 3. It belongs to the family of herpes viruses and is similar to the herpes simplex virus type 1, the common cause for unpleasant blisters or colds on the lips.
The varicella zoster virus is very contagious: in a case of contact, there is 100% probability of infection if there is no immunity. In most cases, for the first time, the virus of varicella enters the human body in childhood. It causes varicella or chickenpox with fever, rashes on the body and high temperature. Within 5-10 days, the organism starts fighting the disease and develops lifelong immunity. However, the virus hides in the nerve cells called dorsal root ganglia and can stay there for years, often for a lifetime. As soon as the body’s immune system is compromised, the virus reactivates and strikes again as shingles.
Fortunately, compared to herpes simplex viruses, the herpes zoster virus is significantly less resistant to environmental conditions. Ultraviolet radiation kills it quickly as well as mild heat. Scientists say that the herpes simplex virus and the varicella virus had a common ancestor because they share roughly similar structure.
Because the immune system usually suppresses herpes zoster, reactivation can occur in people with weak or compromised immune system, such as older individuals.
Ultimately, herpes zoster strikes the organism if it was infected in the past. If it happens, it’s impossible to cure it completely, but it’s possible to control its development and avoid complications.
The probability of developing shingles increases with age: seniors develop it more often than young and middle-aged people. According to statistics, every tenth individual over 70 years suffers from this disease.
The total duration of the disease from the onset of the first symptoms to the complete disappearance of scabs on the skin usually takes 20-30 days. Sometimes, the disease can clear up completely in 10-12 days. Usually, the rashes appear on one side of the body. In most cases, all maculopapular lesions, vesicles and scabs localize within the chest, abdomen and pelvis. In some rare cases, they localized on the hands, feet and head. With the reactivation of herpes zoster, a severity of symptoms gradually decreases but the risk of complications increases.
Treatment of herpes zoster is done in two ways: suppressing the activity of the virus and alleviating the symptoms. Only a doctor can prescribe the treatment and the medicine. You should always consult a physician because taking any medication without prescription can cause serious complications in the form of postherpetic neuralgia, kidney failure and other detrimental consequences, including death.
There are many particular antiviral drugs to fight the virus. The choice of drugs determines the course of treatment. Unlike the treatment of herpes simplex, even with antiviral drugs, the development of painful symptoms can not be prevented in case of herpes zoster. The primary goal of the drugs is to avoid the development of postherpetic neuralgia. If taken early, the risk of residual pain is less than 10-15%.
Zovirax is known as the most efficient medicine against the herpes virus type 3. It was developed from Acyclovir. To treat herpes zoster it is recommended to take one tablet of Zovirax five times a day for the duration of the disease. For patients with complications or compromised immunity, double doses can be prescribed: two tablets (400 mg) five times a day or intravenous administration of the drug.
It is recommended to take multivitamins and vitamins B1 and B12. A doctor can also prescribe antibiotics and pain medication. Zovirax is available at pharmacies without a prescription at the affordable price.
I got sick two years ago. First, I had primary lesions on the left side of my body and head. I was scared and desperate because I was only 26 years. The doctors were surprised and told that it was very unusual to get shingles at my age. I suffered from pain, and I cried at night not to scare my husband and my baby. Later, I got very sick and stayed in bed all time. My husband and my mom took care of me. I had the high temperature, and my body ached, I had severe migraines. I thought I was dying. The doctor prescribed me to take of Zovirax: 400 mg three times a day for ten days. He also recommended taking vitamins. So far, it is helping, and I started to walk today and feel much better. I hope, I will recover and get back to normal life.