Shingles is a secondary effect of the contraction of chicken pox. The varicella zoster virus notorious for turning you into a collection of red spots causes shingles later (herpes zoster). When you first contract the pox, the virus enters into your system permanently and will lay dormant.
How do you get shingles?
They lay near nerves or on the spinal cord. Sometimes, rashes will form all over the body. Other times, they appear locally at the exact location where the virus is laying depending on which nerve the region is supplied by. For some, its dormancy is a lifelong hibernation they never experience. For others, reactivation will result in shingles.
Thankfully, you can only catch chickenpox once as your body has the blueprints to defeat it in case of return visits. How you do get shingles is more complicated than chickenpox.
Can you get shingles more than once?
Unlike its predecessor, shingles can reappear. There’s no way to permanently eliminate the virus in your system, so you can get shingles more than once. It can be reactivated multiple times and force you to express shingles each time. It’s not uncommon for it to occur once or twice, but when it keeps repeating, it may be an indication something else is wrong.
Why does one experience recurring shingles?
When you encounter recurring bouts of shingles, it can be an indication of an underlying medical problem. Although an exact cause remains unknown as of now, signs point to immunodeficiency problems. Your immune system refers collectively to your body’s personal defense system against foreign pathogens that potentially cause health problems. Certain conditions and illnesses are detrimental to these mechanisms and prevent them from functioning properly. Undergoing chemotherapy or a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS are examples of individuals who are immunocompromised. While there is no direct link on damaging white blood cells and causes shingles, there are strong correlations between such problems and shingles appearances. Other factors that contribute to immune function such as aging are also highly correlated with prevalence. These populations are more susceptible to contracting shingles down the line.
How to manage reoccurring shingles
Shingrix (RZV) is a popular vaccine for preventing shingles outbreaks. Other options such as Zostavax are also available. Sadly, those most vulnerable to reoccurring shingles may not be eligible. The same circumstances that land you in the vulnerable category also not in shape enough to safely have the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests all adults 60 and over who had chickenpox in their lifetime should get this vaccine. If you’re prone to outbreaks, consider early treatment. If you nip it in the tail, you can at least stop the chances of the adverse effects of prolonged episodes. Prescriptions are available and adverse effects can be reduced if you take within 48 hours. In severe situations, there are preventative medications which can limit the number of outbreaks you have. This option is reserved for those with intense immunosuppression who have near daily outbreaks.
Is shingles contagious?
The shingles disease itself is not contagious is the way it spreads shingles. It can, however, spread chickenpox to those who were not previously infected or vaccinated. It can result in death or a trip to the hospital. It should be treated as an emergency.
Complications of shingles
Although shingles has a relatively good prognosis and outlook and a recovery in a couple of weeks is likely, be aware of some things. Chickenpox manifests itself severely in adults. Scarring is also a risk that comes with any form of the disease which causes rashes, blisters, or lesions.
Scar formation may be unavoidable in certain scenarios, however, steps can be taken to reduce them. Scars are more likely to form when the skin has been scratched or cut open, making conscious notions to not pick at the wounds can help. Medications which treat itches or ointments to cool down the skin can limit temptation. Keeping fingernails trimmed can also assist your attempts. For sleeping, using hand gear which binds the fingers and covers the nails.
An oven mitt, winter mitten, or even sports gloves can do this. It’s difficult to refrain from doing things unconsciously. A final complication is postherapetic neuralgia. It can last months after an episode and refers to a lingering pain associated with the virus.
Before any of this happens, you need contact with chicken pox. Many people go their lives without ever contracting it thanks to scientific advances and the spread of vaccines. If you have not been vaccinated and are of able body, contact your doctor to do so immediacy. In the meantime (or if you are not in the proper state to undergo inoculation), take precautions to avoid the illness.
Receiving a vaccine while infected defeats the purpose. Avoid crowds which are likely to spread infection or have actively administered a warning. Places like public recreational areas (playgrounds, pools, clubs) or crowded stores and streets should wait. Many doctors offices will quarantine off known cases of contagions, but you can always doublecheck with the secretary. If schools have sent out warnings, take them seriously. Also, be sure to ask the people you hang out with if they’ve received vaccines. Even if they don’t outwardly show signs of infection, the virus may be present.
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