Shingles: Symptoms and effects of virus
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According to the Mayo Clinic, pain is “usually” the first symptom of shingles. In most cases it is followed by a rash, which “develops as a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso”. And “sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face,” it says.
However, the clinic explains: “Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.”
Therefore, other symptoms to look out for include:
- sensitivity to light
It advises to see your doctor if you have concerns about these symptoms, especially if “you’re 60 or older, because age significantly increases your risk of complications” or if you or a family member has a weakened immune system.
Complications that can arise from shingles can be serious.
One such complication is postherpetic neuralgia.
This is when the shingles pain continues long after the blisters have cleared.
It occurs when damaged nerve fibres send confused and exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain.
Shingles can also result in neurological problems.
“Depending on which nerves are affected, shingles can cause an inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), facial paralysis, or hearing or balance problems,” the Mayo Clinic says.
If you do develop a rash from shingles it is likely you could experience “fluid-filled” blisters that break open and crust over, as well as itching.
The rash can also cause lasting issues.
For example, if the blisters aren’t treated properly it can lead to bacterial skin infections.
And if you shingles in or around an eye (ophthalmic shingles), it can cause painful eye infections that “may result” in vision loss.
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
The Mayo Clinic comments: “A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox.
“This usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash.
“Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles.
“Until your shingles blisters scab over, you are contagious and should avoid physical contact with anyone who hasn’t yet had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, especially people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and newborns.”
There is no cure for shingles but early treatment can reduce the length of infection and reduce the risk of complications.
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