If you have had chicken pox during the initial stages of your life, then you are probably, at the risk of developing Shingles or Herpes Zoster disease, sometime later in your life. But, there is no need to panic, as this condition does not necessarily appear in all the people that have had chicken pox.
The children who have had chicken pox, when they were less than one year old, or people who are above the age of fifty, are more prone to this disease than normal healthy people. Also, those who have weakened immune system, due to long term illness or medications are also at the risk of developing this condition.
Herpes Zoster is a painful condition of the skin, which causes blisters and rashes on the affected area. This condition is caused by the virus, varicella zoster, which also causes chicken pox. Actually, once a person has been infected by chicken pox, this virus goes to certain nerves of his body and lays in dormant or inactive stage for years.
Due to some reasons, which are not yet very clear, this virus becomes active again after some time and causes Herpes zoster, leading to highly irritable and painful rashes, leading to equally painful blisters.
In the beginning of this infection, you may feel tingling, pain and burning on some parts of your skin, which may later on develop rashes. Once these rashes start appearing, accompanied with other symptoms, like fever, headache and a persistent sense of malaise, you should rush to see your dermatologist.
The treatment needs to be started within a time span of 72 hours, when the symptoms start appearing. Usually, this condition subsides in 2 to 4 weeks, but it is better to get treatment to reduce its severity and pain.
Patients suffering from mild symptoms of Herpes Zoster may take analgesics by prescription or simply over the counter, to get relief from pain. OTC (over the counter) medicines like aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be taken to reduce the pain in case, it is mild, but in severe cases, you may have to resolve to prescription drugs, like, morphine and other narcotics.
Some doctors also prescribe anti-histamine tablets or anti-histamine lotions, to their patients. These anti-histamine tablets when taken orally, reduce the itching and same effect is derived from local application of anti-histamine creams and lotions over the skin having Shingles.
Patients can apply OTC lotions containing calamine, for example, Caladryl, on the skin for soothing effect. These antibiotic lotions reduce the burning sensation and pain and promote drying of the blisters. Once these blisters and rashes start drying up, and a crust starts forming over them.
At this stage, Capsaicin cream, like Zostrix can be applied over them to get relief. Xylocaine or Lidocaine and nerve blocks are also applied externally, to reduce the pain and inflammation of infected parts. Patients can also take starch bath and colloidal oatmeal bath, which act as soothing agents for blisters, to get relief.
Corticosteroids are administered orally to the patients suffering from Herpes Zoster, to enhance their healing process. The most commonly administered corticosteroids are aciclovir and prednisone. These drugs are normally recommended mainly to the patients above the age of 50 years.
Acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir are the most commonly prescribed anti-viral drugs to the patients having Herpes Zoster virus. These anti-viral drugs help fight against the virus that causes this condition and are quite successful in shortening the duration of infection.
These drugs have been so far considered the most standard treatment for Herpes Zoster and are administered during moderate as well as acute conditions.
In case of Shingles, you cannot and should not compromise with hygiene or rest. It is a highly contagious disease, so you should keep your belongings to yourself and prevent direct physical contact with others. The external dust particles can make the condition worse and elongate the process of healing, so maintain your personal hygiene.
Also, staying away from stress and taking ample rest is recommended by the doctors, as your body is busy fighting off the virus and so, it requires complete rest. Herpes Zoster or Shingles is a condition that has no cure, and it wears off in 3 to 4 weeks, by itself.
But, the above mentioned treatments are very effective in reducing the gravity of the situation and making it bearable. The most important step that should be taken in this regard is consulting your doctor, as soon as the symptoms start appearing, preferably within 24 hours.
If diagnosed in initial stages, the treatments would become more effective and so, you may not have to go through that much of unbearable pain or irritation.