Shingles is an unfortunately common and nasty problem. It is more than a simple skin rash. The virus that is responsible for the eruption also infects the nerves beneath the skin, resulting in a rash that hurts. Not just itches, but hurts. It is the pain that makes shingles miserable for the patient and challenging for the physician.
Shingles is derived from the Latin and French words for belt or girdle, reflecting distribution of the rash in a broad band. This band is usually only on one side of the body and represents a dermatome—the area that a single sensory nerve supplies in the skin.
Shingles is a condition characterized by painful blisters that typically appear in a linear distribution on the skin following nerve pathways. Shingles is caused by reactivation of a previous infection with the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles is a herpes virus infection (herpes zoster) that usually affects a nerve, causing pain in one area of the body. Infection of the ganglia of the posterior roots of the spinal nerves or the fifth cranial nerve by the varcella-zoster virus (shingles), which also causes chicken pox; it is marked by a painful eruption of vesicles usually on one side of the body along the course of one or more cutaneous nerves.
Shingles skin disease disorder is a reaction of the herpes zoster virus in which painful skin blisters erupt on one side of the face or body along the distribution of nerves on the skin. The accompaning blisters are infectious. Shingles begins with a general feeling of malaise accompanied by a slight fever and tingling sensation or pain on one side of the body.
Shingles is a reactivation of the herpes zoster virus (varicella-zoster virus, or VZV). This same virus causes the childhood illness chickenpox. The chickenpox virus (varicella) remains in a dormant state in the body in the root of nerves that control sensation. In about 1 out of 5 people, the virus “wakes up,” often many years after the chickenpox infection. The virus then travels along a sensory nerve into the skin causing a painful rash known as shingles.
The time between exposure to the virus and eruption of symptoms is called the incubation period. For chicken pox, this period is 10 – 20 days. The patient often develops fever, headache, swollen glands, and other flu-like symptoms before the typical rash appears. While fevers are low grade in most children, some can reach up to 105° F.
Then within days a rash appears in the same area in a line along our chest, abdomen, back or face, but can also affect the neck, limbs or lower back, These areas can be painful, itchy and tender. After one to two weeks the blisters heal and scabs form, although the pain continues.
Apply cool tap-water compresses to weeping blisters for 20 minutes several times a day to soothe and help dry the blisters. It also aids in removing the scabs and decreases the potential for bacterial infection. Tap-water compresses must be stopped once the blisters have dried, so the surrounding skin does not become too dry and itchy.