Also known as Herpes Zoster, Shingles is an infection of the roots of the nerves that manifests itself as painful blisters on the skin. The ‘Varicella Zoster Virus’ which is responsible for causing chickenpox in human beings is also the main cause of this medical condition. The chance of contacting this disease is high among those who have suffered from chickenpox in their childhood since the aforesaid virus remains in the body even after the sufferers have recovered from the condition completely. The rash associated with this condition usually lasts for a month and can become less painful once the blisters begin to heal.
Is Shingles a Contagious Disease?
As for the question, “Is shingles contagious?” – The answer is yes, when a healthy person comes into contact with the blisters, rashes or open wounds of a shingles affected person, the VZV virus can spread and make the person infected. Although this disease tends to affect people with a history of chickenpox, even those who have never suffered from chickenpox in their life can get this disease but in rare cases. This disease is contagious only during the initial phase when the patient has wet blisters that are filled with fluid. The contagious period of shingles ends during the phase when the blisters are dry.
Avoiding direct contact with a shingles patient deters the infection from spreading. This disease is not aerial. In other words, an infected person’s coughing or sneezing will not lead to its spread. One thing to remember is that even though this disease is not wholly contagious, pregnant women, small children and those with a weakened immune system must avoid coming into contact with shingles infected persons since they can contact this disease easily.
Who’s at Risk?
• The persons who are most at risk of developing this ailment are those who have been affected by chickenpox at some point in their lives.
• Similarly, young children and those over the age of 50 years may also be prone to contacting this disease.
• A person suffering from a weakened immune system owing to debilitating diseases such as AIDS and Cancer may also be at high risk of contacting shingles since their immune system may not be operating to its optimal capacity.
• A person consuming immunosuppressive drugs or undergoing extensive medication are also at high risk of developing this condition.
Advice For Patients
As mentioned earlier, shingles is only contagious during the phase when blisters are new or filled with wet fluid. So, patients can stop the spread of this disease by keeping their blisters covered. They should follow the treatment specified by their doctor strictly. To aid faster recovery, they should stay in a cool room and avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Even though they may be tempted to scratch the rashes or wounds, they should refrain from doing so.
Individuals should contact a doctor as soon as they see the initial symptoms of this condition. Seeking immediate attention can help to lessen the severity of this disease and bring about a quick recovery. It can also prevent any complications in the future.
Shingles Contagious. Period.
The shingles contagious period can vary from one individual to another and cannot be defined easily.
As for the symptoms of shingles, the following are the most common symptoms:
• Development of blisters in a row-the most obvious symptom that enables a doctor to form his diagnosis
• Persistent headache and fever for a few days.
• Fatigue and a listless feeling
• Problems with the stomach and digestive system as a whole
• Pain, tingling, burning, extreme sensitivity or numbness in some part of your body
• Itching at the sites of wounds or rashes
• Sudden chills
• Long term nerve pain and muscular weakness
• Long term difficulties can include facial paralysis, changes in vision
Causes of Shingles
The conditions that can trigger this disease are an impaired immune system and constant stress. Individuals who suffer from cancer or AIDS are the most vulnerable to VZV owing to their weak immune system. Once it resurfaces, this condition can be more painful and difficult to overcome than chicken pox. While symptoms such as the above can help diagnose the presence of this disease, patients should seek immediate help if they want to recover quickly.
As mentioned earlier, the main cause of this condition is the chickenpox virus. This virus remains dormant in the body and can resurface as shingles after some years.
Effects of Shingles
The first major effect of this condition is the pain that patients feel owing to this illness. Pain can be severe or mild and its intensity can vary widely from one individual to another. The second effect of shingles is the rash that manifests as tiny red bumps that can turn in to blisters before drying up completely and falling off.
How Do I Prevent Shingles?
Avoiding contact with infected persons so as not to infect them is the best way to prevent shingles. Parents along with their children can be vaccinated for chickenpox to keep this condition at bay. The Zostavax vaccine will not only minimize the risk of developing shingles but can also lower the duration of the disease if you contact it. A number of trials have indicated that this vaccine was effective in bringing down the number of infections by half. The severity of the infection can also be reduced by treating an initial attack with antiviral drugs.
How Long Does Shingles Last?
The length of time this disease will last in one’s body can depend on various factors – it can depend on the general health of the person, his/her age and the time taken for healing of the blisters. In mild cases, patients can overcome this disease within a short span of time.
Individuals who are suspicious of their symptoms should seek the advice of their health care professional for a correct diagnosis. For very mild cases, no treatment may be required, but it is always wise to get a professional opinion when it comes to this illness.