What you need to know about Shingles
Herpes infection can be caused by various types of herpes viruses, which can cause different types of diseases. One type of herpes virus is called VZV (Varicella-Zoster Virus). According to the name, VZV is the cause of two clinically distinct diseases: chickenpox (Varicella) and shingles (Zoster).
Chickenpox is a childhood blister disease caused by primary infection with VZV. After one recovers from chickenpox, the VZV travels to the nerve roots of the infected person where it remains dormant. Later in life, the virus can reactivate when it travels through the nerve root, located in the spine, through the nerve, to the skin. This will induce a blister disease, called shingles.
Is shingles a serious disease?
Shingles is not a life-threatening disease: however, it can cause serious long-term complications, especially if the face is infected.
What are the risks of shingles?
- The infection of the eyes with VZV is a potential sight-threatening condition.
- Untreated shingles can cause lifelong pain at the site of the infection.
- Shingles can cause permanent scarring of the skin, especially if one suffers from a superimposed bacterial infection of the affected area.
- Oftentimes, shingles occur when the immune system is low, which can indicate the new onset of serious diseases, such as an HIV infection, cancer, and more.
What you must know about the treatment of shingles
For shingles as well as other herpes infections, treatment is most effective if it is started at the onset of the disease. Once shingles bumps begin to scab, treatment will not be as sufficient. Early treatment of shingles will shorten the course of the infection and lessen the chance of complications.
The first photo shows the stage of shingles when treatment is most effective. The second photo shows the blisters are drying out and will not respond to treatment.
Herpes medication aids to shorten the length and intensity of the disease. By doing so, the replication of the virus is reduced and the progression of shingles is diminished.
Don’t take the risk of scarring
The photo on the left shows the skin three weeks after the onset of infection. The photo on the right shows the healing process of the infection. As you can see, there is no scarring, despite the deep blisters from the shingles. When infected, shingles may last up to 2-3 weeks. Why take the chance of scarring from the shingles when you can prevent them? Call us for a same-day appointment if you experience any flu-like symptoms or experience the new onset of a painful group of bumps.
Shingles can affect young people as well
A person may be more susceptible to developing shingles with a weakened immune system. Often, we see shingles amongst younger people at our practice. It is really important to seek medical evaluation to rule out any possible underlying disease that weakened the immune system. In general, shingles are more common amongst individuals who are older than 50 years old since the immune system weakens with age. 50% of people that reach age 85 have had shingles at least once in their life.
What you must know about the tip of the nose Shingles
The blisters caused by shingles will spread along the pathway of the affected nerve. From the pattern of the rash, we are able to determine which nerve is affected by the shingles. As you can see in the diagram, the tip of the nose and eyes share the same nerve called the ophthalmic nerve. Therefore, signs of shingles on the tip of the nose may proceed development of shingle into the eye which can ultimately compromise the sight. Remember you must seek treatment as soon as possible once you identify symptoms of the tip of the nose.
Is Shingle a serious disease?
Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO)
While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, shingles can involve the nerve around the eye (ophthalmic shingles), which may result in a painful eye infection and the scarring of the cornea, causing permanent vision loss. If you notice any painful bumps around your eyes or nose, make sure you call us as soon as possible to schedule a same-day appointment to get started on treatment.
Shingle always involve one side of the face or body
The above photos are from the same visit showing how shingles always attack half of the face or body.
We have time blocked for same-day emergency cases. Please call us and mention that you must be seen on the same day and we will accommodate your needs.
Are shingles contagious?
Yes. During the initial phase of the infection, blisters are full of viruses (VZV). Shingles remain contagious until all blisters are fully scabbed. If the open sores of the shingles rash come into contact with the skin of someone who has not had chickenpox or has not received the chickenpox vaccine, that individual will develop chickenpox. Thus, it is very important to strictly avoid skin contact with people who have weak immune systems, such as pregnant women and newborns.
How can you prevent shingles?
There are vaccines available for VZV (Varicella-Zoster virus). Remember, vaccines do not guarantee 100% protection, but it decreases the chance of infection and the severity of the disease. Typically, vaccinated individuals will have a boosted immunity against that particular virus or bacteria they were vaccinated for.
Varicella vaccine (Varivax) is a childhood vaccine; it is also for adults that have not been exposed to chickenpox.
Zostavax (Shingles vaccine) was approved by the FDA in 2006 for people over 60 years old. It is a weakened live vaccine that ensures immunity for 5 years.
Shingrix (Shingles vaccine) approved by the FDA in 2017. It is a preferred alternative to Zostovax for the following reasons:
- Gives immunity for over 5 years,
- It is made of the non-living component of the VZV.
- It is recommended for those aged 50 and older, including those who have previously received Zostavax.
- It is given in two dosages, which are two to six months apart.
Contact us as soon as possible
If you feel tired, have a running temperature, have body aches, and/or have a group of pink painful bumps, you may be developing shingles. Remember, the immediate start of treatment is crucial to prevent possible unknown diseases that may weaken the immune system. We have reserved an opening for same-day emergency visits. Just Call us to make an appointment to be seen and start treatment if needed.