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Since Herpes zoster (i.e. Shingles) lays dormant in the nerve tissue of the body, it usually travels from a person’s ganglia to the various axons and then reaches only a particular portion of the skin (Is that rash shingles?, 2013). While it is still unknown why it is isolated to particular areas, it often occurs on the chest, back or in some areas of the face in a belt like pattern.
Is Shingles Contagious?
Shingles (varicella zoster) is not contagious in the conventional sense due to its nature as the virus that causes chicken pox. What you have to understand is that once a person gets chicken pox and gets better, the virus goes into a dormant state wherein it can either “sleep” throughout that person’s life and never resurge or it can “awaken”.
This can occur as a result of a weakening in the immune system, stress or the normal aging process that occurs in the body, however, this “awakening” does not occur in most individuals (Calianno & O’Shea, 2013).
While anyone who has developed chickenpox during their childhood has the “possibility” of getting shingles, it takes a combination of factors such as stressors, weak immunity response mechanisms and other such characteristics to cause a person to develop shingles in the first place. Do note though that an exception to this are instances where a person has not had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine which makes it possible for the virus to spread (Gan, Tian & Tey, 2013).
However, you cannot actually catch shingles through this method, a person who has shingles cannot give someone else shingles, rather, the virus is merely transmitted resulting in either a benign state (i.e. no effect whatsoever on the body) or that individual would develop chicken pox and not shingles if they had not had chicken pox in the past (Gan, Tian & Tey, 2013).
The current treatment methods for shingles are varied based on the severity of the occurrence. What you have to understand is the rash is also associated with considerable pain and, as such, it is often necessary to address both issues.
The first method of treatment that is normally utilized are anti viral drugs such as famciclovir and valacyclovir which help to control the virus. While this may help treat the virus, the issue of pain still needs to be addressed. This is often solved through the use of nerve blockers in the form of anesthetic drugs or steroids.
What is post herpetic neuralgia?
Post herpetic neuralgia is defined as a rare manifestation of shingles where severe pain associated with the rash can last longer than a few weeks. In most cases of shingles, the rash tends to disappear after a few weeks; however, in certain rare instances the pain associated with it can last for months if not years ((Is that rash shingles?, 2013).
This can actually cause a considerable decrease in a person’s quality of life given the pain and irritation associated with the condition. Fortunately, there have been a few treatments that were developed in the past few years that help to address such an issue.
Qutenza, which is a type of highly concentrated capsaicin (i.e. the chemical found in chili peppers that give them their characteristic heat), was found to provide considerable relief to a patient with post herpetic neuralgia for up to a period of 3 months. The qutenza treatment normally takes 60 minutes of application in a doctor’s office and is relatively inexpensive. Other methods of helping people with post herpetic neuralgia come in the form of an anesthetic drug which is applied on the peripheral nerves and helps to dull the pain.
While the current shingles vaccine known as Zostavax helps to reduce the instances of shingles in people by 50%, the vaccine itself supposedly weakens over time and is not lifelong thereby creating a potential problem for people of advanced ages (Keating, 2013).
Calianno, C., & O’Shea, S. (2013). Herpes zoster in older adults. Nurse Practitioner, 38(8), 10-14.
Gan, E., Tian, E., & Tey, H. (2013). Management of Herpes Zoster and Post-Herpetic Neuralgia. American Journal Of Clinical Dermatology, 14(2), 77-85.
Is that rash shingles?. (2013). Harvard Health Letter, 39(1), 6.
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Keating, G. (2013). Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Vaccine (Zostavax): A Review of Its Use in the Prevention of Herpes Zoster and Postherpetic Neuralgia in Adults Aged ≥50 Years. Drugs, 73(11), 1227-1244.