The facts on shin­gles

Stanstead Journal - - NEWS -

(NC) Shin­gles, also known as her­pes zoster, is a vi­ral in­fec­tion of the nerves that is painful and can have se­vere com­pli­ca­tions. Peo­ple who suf­fer from it have de­scribed their pain in many ways, such as burns, throbs, shoots and stabs.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pub­lic Health Agency of Canada, shin­gles is a dis­ease caused by the vari­cella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chick­en­pox. Af­ter you have chick­en­pox, the virus re­mains dor­mant in your body in nerve cells and as you get older it can reap­pear as shin­gles. Al­though it is most com­mon in peo­ple over age 50, any­one who has had chick­en­pox is at risk.

Shin­gles is a painful, blis­ter­ing rash that can last sev­eral weeks. Al­though it usu­ally oc­curs in one part of the body, such as the torso, shin­gles can also af­fect the face and eyes. For Cathy Dil­lon of Toronto, 61, the first oc­cur­rence of shin­gles was dis­cov­ered by her hair stylist when a clus­ter of red dots on her scalp be­came ap­par­ent dur­ing a trip to the sa­lon. Her rash grad­u­ally spread along the side of her head and face dan­ger­ously close to her eye. “I had to go to a spe­cial­ist to make sure the shin­gles weren't go­ing into my eye,” she ex­plained as cases of shin­gles af­fect­ing the eyes may lead to a loss of vi­sion.

Not only was the rash spread­ing it was be­com­ing more and more painful. “I had ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain, it felt like my face was on fire,” de­scribed Dil­lon.

It is es­ti­mated that nearly 1 in 3 peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence shin­gles in their life­time. For most peo­ple, the pain from shin­gles re­solves as the rash heals, but for oth­ers it can cause long-last­ing nerve pain. This po­ten­tially se­vere nerve pain (called pos­ther­petic neu­ral­gia or PHN) can last for months or years af­ter the rash heals.

In sev­eral cases, this on­go­ing nerve pain can cause com­pli­ca­tions that may af­fect nor­mal, daily ac­tiv­i­ties such as walk­ing, sleep­ing, and so­cial­iz­ing. The pain can be de­bil­i­tat­ing and lead to a loss of in­de­pen­dence, anx­i­ety and even de­pres­sion.

Here are some com­mon shin­gles symp­toms: 1. Pain, itch­ing, or tin­gling in an area on the sides of your body or face. 2. A rash breaks out on the same area a few days later. 3. The painful rash spreads in a sin­gle stripe around one side of the body or one side of the face. The rash then forms blis­ters that typ­i­cally scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. 4. Symp­toms can also in­clude, fever, headache, chills and up­set stom­ach. 5. Nerve pain where a breeze or the touch of cloth­ing can cause se­vere pain. For more in­for­ma­tion about shin­gles speak to your doc­tor or phar­ma­cist. This in­for­ma­tion is pro­vided by Merck.

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