Shingles (Herpes Zoster). This is a reactivation of varicella-zoster virus. Anyone who has previously had chickenpox may develop shingles. The virus stays dormant in dorsal root ganglia nerve cells in the spine. Once it is reactivated it migrates down sensory nerves to the skin to cause shingles. It can occur in children but is more common in adults.
It appears as a blistering localized painful itchy rash on one side of the face or body. It is more common on the face than the body. It can be spread by close physical contact to those who have NOT been infected with or vaccinated against the virus. It remains contagious until the blisters have healed over. Once the blisters are broken and scabbed over or are well covered, they cannot spread the virus. It often affects people with a weakened immune system.
Complications of shingles if left untreated is post herpetic neuralgia (intermittent pain and intense itching along the course of a nerve) eye infection, loss of vision, glaucoma, facial palsy (paralysis) ear ache, hearing loss, dizziness, loss of taste and an increased risk of bacterial infection.
Diagnosis is made by pain history, a physical examination by your doctor and a swab can be taken. You may also advised to see an ophthalmologist if the shingles are around your eye to rule out any nerve involvement. (Mine was not involved). Although the virus cannot be cured anti viral medication can reduce the severity of the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. These include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and famciclovir (Famvir). Cool compresses, calamine lotion, capsaicin cream for the neuralgia and avoiding scratching or popping the blisters are some of the recommendations for treating shingles.
Personally I have found the intense itching to be the worst part of my journey. I am taking anti-viral medication and a supplement to boost my immune system. I’m also resting, drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods and not seeing any clients until next week. Unfortunately I thought I had been bitten by a spider on my face initially and then it was misdiagnosed by a pharmacist.
Written by Mary White (Practicing Corneotherapist)