What is it??
Herpes zoster, colloquially known as shingles, is the reactivation of varicella zoster virus, leading to a crop of painful blisters over the area of a dermatome. In Italy and in Malta, it is sometimes referred to as St. Anthony's fire. Prior to implementation of the universal varicella vaccination program in the U.S., incidence of shingles increased with advancing age. The incidence rate in children aged less than 10 years was approximately 70 cases/100,000 person-years, increasing to 550 cases/100,000 person-years among adults aged 50 to 59 years. Historically, it was thought that shingles incidence increased due to an age-related decline in immunity; however, recent studies  suggest that incidence of shingles is linked to the reduced frequency of periodic exogenous (outside) exposures to children with varicella (chickenpox) due to the increasing vaccination of that population. These exposures produced an immunologic boost that helped suppress the reactivation of shingles. Shingles incidence is high in the elderly (over 60), as well as in any age group of immunocompromised patients. It affects some 1 million people per year in the United States and can involve excruciating pain. Treatment is generally with antiviral drugs such as Aciclovir. Many patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia which is often difficult to manage.
In some patients, herpes zoster can reactivate subclinically with pain in a dermatomal distribution without rash. This condition is known as zoster sine herpete and may be more complicated, affecting multiple levels of the nervous system and causing multiple cranial neuropathies, polyneuritis, myelitis, or aseptic meningitis.
The word herpes comes from the Greek word for snake; it is cognate with herpetology.
Signs and symptoms:
Often, pain is the first symptom. This pain can be characterized as stinging, tingling, numbing, or throbbing, and can be pronounced with quick stabs of intensity. Then 2-3 crops of red lesions develop, which gradually turn into small blisters filled with serous fluid. A general feeling of unwellness often occurs. In some cases, the rash does not form blisters, but has an appearance much like urticaria ("hives").
As long as the blisters have not dried out, HZ patients may transmit the virus to others. This could lead to chickenpox in people (mainly young children) who are not yet immune to this virus.
Chickenpox virus can remain dormant for decades, and does so inside the ganglion near the spinal cord. As the virus is reactivated it spreads down peripheral nerve fibers and produces intense pain. The blisters therefore only affect one area of the body and do not cross the midline. They are most common on the torso, but can also appear on the face (where they are potentially hazardous to vision) or other parts of the body.
Read about it here:
Herpes zoster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I've had it.. eeeek.. it's a form of chicken pox. And usually pops up in elderly people when they have a change of lifestyle.. i think the condition is that it happens only to people that had the chicken pox....
I got it right before i moved to new york.. Once the symptoms show up, you gotta let it ride out because it's a virus. And you don't get shingles twice.
As for symptoms, you can't really feel the pain before the blisters pop out... i got mine on my rib cage right below the boob.. It's more of a numbness.... and in my case, it felt like someone was always touching my boob... LOL A few weeks later, i had a rash.. that started at my sternum and did a 1/2 circle around to the middle of my back (it forms along a neuro path line... so for me, it was from my ribcage to the middle of my back.)
It took about 3 weeks after the symptoms showed for them to disappear.. It was hard for me to take a shower because if the blisters pop, they are CONTAGIOUS...
Oh and they are contagious to people who have not had the chickenpox.
I've read about severe cases where people get it on their face so I was really happy that mine wasn't that bad... but it looked scary.. i thought it would never go away.
It's basically an "adult" re-onset of chicken pox. You're not going to die from it. BUT, it can cause something called "postherpetic neuralgia" which can be quite painful. Basically you have pain! It's really important that you go to the ER or doctor ASAP if you get the rash--it usually starts in the abdomen. They'll prescribe the antiviral medication for you. It's best to get on it as soon as possible to help prevent the "postherpetic neuralgia" pain from occurring down the road.
My husband had it and it's horrible...extremely painful and if you don't catch it soon enough, you just have to suffer through it. DH's first sign was he kept asking me to look at his back, if he had a bruise there or something. it was killing him - then the rash began...we went to the ER and he was diagnosed right away. He had a rash up his entire back on the right side. I put Rhuli gel daily on the blisters/sores to help dry them up, but it's the internal pain that's the bad part of it. He was on Vicadin to help tolerate the pain. The chicken pox virus lies dormant and this can be brought on by stress, etc. You will be ok but if you think there's at least *any* chance you might have it, get yourself to a dr. sooner rather than later to get on the antiviral meds! If others you are near have NOT had the chicken pox, you will be highly contagious to them. DH still has issues now and then in the same area with pain.
I had it, it was real bad. Basically all the above is true. The patient must stay away from anyone (adult or child) who has not had chicken pox. So, stay outta Toys-r-us
My mom's friend just had it! It's very painful! Her mom had just passed and they thought it was brought on by stress.
so once it goes away it *can* come back???
Our doctor made it sound so bad......i we learn he had shingles was "....well you have herpes.....".......then after a million question he finally cleared up his answer and was like "oh no need to panick its called shingles...its a form of herpes"
and we all know how the media and etc makes herpes sound like sucha dirty dieasese.....is there any cream to help numb the pain...(we bought solidacaine which is 0.5% lidocaine)
Herpes is a TYPE of virus. It's like saying you own a dog--but not specifiying the breed. There are lots of different types of herpes viruses, but we all think of the sexually transmitted version. The common cankersore is caused by a type of herpes virus too. So is shingles and chickenpox. Shingles is basically the re-activation of the chickenpox virus that you had as a kid. The virus stays dormant in your system and then flares up in adulthood--it's then called "shingles." You CAN get shingles again after you get it once, but that's not the normal course. However, you can get a complication after shingles--the postherpetic neuralgia that's really painful.
I would assume that acyclovir was prescribed.... In terms of non-prescription, topical ointments, creams--to help with the pain, look for something with benzocaine--that should help numb the pain. You can take asprin, ibuprofen, tylenol--whatever you're not allergic to, to help with the pain. I suggest talking to your doctor about the best options for you and to prevent any reactions with any other medications you may be taking.
Webmd has good basic information. Here's the link:
Shingles -- Treatment Overview
thank you for all your help....
also one last question...is there a huge % that end up having complication from shingles?
I think one of the keys to preventing the shingles complication (postherpetic neuralgia) is getting/taking Acyclovir ASAP. Delayed treatment often results in postherpetic neuralgia. BUT they don't quite know how it's caused or prevented.
So don't stress that you'll get the complication. Take the medication, relax and try not to stress....
About the Herpes thing.. the doctor said that if a shingle blister is broken while in the shower and spread onto other parts that have broken skin, it can turn into genital herpes (because they're from the same viral family) so really really be careful. I heard it's only possible if the blister is open and the other area is open.. like broken skin.. but i was soooo freaked out.. i took a shower just for my shingles and a shower for the rest. OR if the blister is broken and you rub your eye, that'll be REALLY bad because the virus can be transmitted to the eye too (i'm not sure what that becomes, but i'm guessing it can cause possible blindness) very small possibility, but i don't mess w/ my vision...
Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus which also causes chicken pox. When you're young they call it chicken pox, when you're older they refer to it as shingles.
If you've had the chicken pox at a really young age, you're most likely to get shingles again as an adult because your titers (immunity) decreases since you got it so long ago. Also, if you've never gotten the chicken pox as a little kid, you may get shingles as an adult. If you got the chicken pox a little later on as a child/adolescent, you most likely still have immunity against shingles.
You can check your titers when you visit your doctor to check if they fall between the immunity range. You can also get a vaccine in order to prevent it from occurring. Herpes zoster is treated by 3 main medications: Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, & Famciclovir, all of which are in the same pharmacologic class. Acyclovir is the cheapest & most widely used anti-viral agent against herpes zoster.