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An Introduction to Shingles

Shingles is a painful virus, caused by the varicella zoster virus. The affected area of shingles usually appears as a strip or small area on one side of a person’s face or body. Shingles is most common in older adults and in persons with a weakened immune system. Additionally, stress, injury, certain medications and other reasons can cause a shingles outbreak. Fortunately, most people who get shingles will get better and will not suffer a recurrence.

Shingles occurs when the virus that causes chickenpoxstarts up “again in the body. Once recovered from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the nerve roots. In some people, the virus can reawaken (such as when a person suffers an injury, stress, or a weakened immune system). There is no clear reason as to why the virus activates again.

Shingles is not “contagious”. A person cannot “catch” shingles from another person that has it. A person can however, that exposed to shingles, could go on to develop chickenpox (if that person has not had chickenpox or the vaccine.

Shingles can manifest itself as a rash that turns into clusters of blisters. The affected area itself may appear as a band or strip of affected tissue. The blistered area usually takes a few weeks to heal/crust over and may leave scars to the area.

Antiviral medications and pain medications are the standard treatment options for shingles. Together, these medications should help the rash and blistered areas heal more quickly and are less painful. Most important is to discuss the occurrence of skin rashes with your healthcare providers as soon as possible, so that appropriate treatment can be initiated promptly.

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