Sure, you’ve heard of shingles. Maybe your grandparents whined about it when you were a teenager but you couldn’t be bothered figuring out what it meant. They could have even mentioned herpes zoster during such conversations—so does that mean grandma or grandpa were caught sleeping around, having unprotected sex without a condom and somehow contracted an STD? Negative. HZ is simply a synonym for shingles, as is zona. Get accustomed with the lexicon.
As aging catches up to your once youthful innocence—and perhaps ignorance—it’s time to educate yourself on the adversities you’re at risk of facing.
Here we’ll talk about shingles, the downright vile appearance they have in onset, the symptoms associated with the rash as well as the auxiliary botherations to expect, what herpes virus causes shingles in the first place, and subsequently what causes a shingles rash.
What Are the Early Shingles Symptoms?
Early shingles symptoms do include the aforementioned erythema which can best be described using some unpalatable words, but before it hypostatizes, there are a couple of other things to be on the lookout for.
In the abdominal region and/or the face, you may start feeling a burning, prickly, or tingly sensation. The same area could begin feeling numb as well. To the touch, the skin could be hypersensitive and it’s not uncommon for these sensations to intensify with time. The skin might become overwhelmingly itchy, too.
Such sequelae may occur for days before the skin starts mutating.
What Are the Internal Shingles Symptoms?
Prior to rash development, the patient may complain about feelings of general unwellness. Aside from overall dread, other obscure, intangible internal shingles symptoms include:
- Pyrexia (fever)
- Cephalalgia (headache)
- Muscular achiness
Presenting at the clinic with these, combined with the early symptoms, and a thorough medical history, your doc might be able to prognosticate an accurate shingles diagnosis before the rash ever has a chance to manifest.
We’ll get the nitty gritty, repugnant details out of the way now. Earlier we discussed the terms synonymous with the condition, but an interesting point is that shingles, like many English words in medicine, is derived from Latin—cingulum—meaning belt. Reason being, the trademark rash usually exhibits a striped pattern.
Usually, the rash takes shape unilaterally, but in stranger cases, it forms bilaterally. In a day or five, you’ll start noticing some painful, itchy sores and blisters in large clusters in the affected zone. A week or 10 days later, these macules and papules will form crusty scabs before eventually vanishing altogether. Sometimes the blisters will exude fluid discharge, which is infectious (more on that in a moment), so it’s imperative to maintain a hygienic constitution.
Imperious treatment will speed up the rash’s healing process as well as prevent it from spreading to unaffected regions.
It’s extremely uncommon, but you can have shingles symptoms with no rash. However, this is a very challenging confirmation to make for physicians as the rash is the giveaway sign.
When no rash is present, it’s zoster sine herpete (ZSH), an entirely different ICD 10 code, which is a different virus than what incites customary shingles. Similar preceding symptoms occur to the early signs of shingles, thrown in with some fatigue and radiating spinal excruciation.
The pain without the presence of a rash is often easily mistaken for other issues, such as dealing with the heart or the kidneys, perhaps the lungs as well, since it’s impossible to compare the symptoms with pictures of classic rashes.
To differentiate between shingles and an alternative issue, several methods may be exercised. This includes a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to withdraw cerebrospinal fluid for testing, or hematology or saliva pathology tests.
What Causes a Shingles Rash?
A shingles rash is caused by what herpes virus that causes shingles—herpes zoster. It’s not the same as the earlier mentioned STI, which is HSV-1, Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1.
Herpes zoster is analogous to shingles, and it’s the latency of VZV (varicella zoster virus) that lingers in the system after being exposed to the chickenpox. This virus essentially never goes away—and it’s completely incorrigible, however, it’s manageable with the right antiviral drugs.
Can Stress Cause Shingles?
Once VZV is hanging around your system, many factors come into play that can cause shingles to materialize. One of those includes tension, anxiety, and disquietude. So, can stress cause shingles? Absolutely.
Other circumstances that can predispose you to herpes zoster are compromised, weakened immune systems, an HIV or AIDS prognosis, high levels of chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancer treatment, organ transplantations, and high levels of corticoid steroids.
Is Shingles Contagious?
Shingles is most certainly contagious, however, not in the way you’d normally assume. The virus can only spread via contact with the liquid inside the blisters. Pre and post blister phase, the bearer of shingles is not infective at all. Even though it’s the identical virus as the chickenpox, it’s actually far less infectious.
Not the rash, but the virus itself can be transmitted to someone who has not yet battled with the chickenpox. However, if they have, they’re pretty safe.
Still, heed precaution and keep your rashes clean and covered. Abstain from excoriating or handling the blisters, ignore the urges to pick.
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