What are Shingles?

Shingles are caused by a latent virus in our bodies (especially if you have had Chickenpox) that causes rashes, pain and unsightly red blotches on the skin. If you ever had chickenpox, the virus that causes shingles (herpes doster) may have become dormant in your body within your nerve cells. When it emerges, years later, it is known as shingles. When the virus reactivates, the symptoms follow a sequence as follows:.

1. The initial sensation is pain or tingling along one of the peripheral nerves spreading outward from your spine. Only the area of your face or body served by that nerve is affected.

2. Within 2 to 3 days later a rash appears. 

3. The next 3 to 5 days, the rash reaches its maximum extent, which can manifest itself on one side of your body from your spine to your breastbone - hence the name zoster (Latin for "belt"). Or, the rash may occur over an extremity or on one side of your face or head. 

4. In a few days the rash (blisters) dries up forming crusts that fall off 2 to 3 weeks after the initial symptoms.

Shingles can be contagious. If you ever had Chickenpox your immune system prevents you from "catching" shingles from someone else. HOWEVER, if you have never had chickenpox and are exposed to the virus, you can develop shingles. Shingles is not normally a serious condition, but there can be continuing pain for months or even years along the affected nerve involved.
Shingles damages nerve fibers. When shingles affect a major nerve in your face, the rash can occur on your face,  inside your mouth or in/near your eye. If you have pain or rash near the eye caused by shingles prompt medical attention by an Ophthalmologist is required.
Early treatment is important to curtail the infection and possibly decrease the chance of persistant pain. To be most effective, treatment should begin as soon as symptoms appear - usually within 3 days of onset.

Information for this page comes from "Mayo Clinic Family Health Book",second edition, chapter 30, pages 1011-1012.

Use Soothe The Body Shingles Relief to reduce pain and help prevent nerve damage.