Shingles is a disease of the nerves. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox in children and young adults. People who have never had chicken pox cannot get shingles.
Symptoms of shingles mostly appear on the chest, face and lower back. They however can extend or begin on the buttocks and basically any other part of the body. Although shingles itself is not fatal, it can prove a vexing problem especially when it occurs on the buttocks and lower back.
Antiviral drugs are the primarily used medications for shingles treatment. While they do not necessarily cure shingles, the drugs shorten the recovery period and reduce the intensity or severity of shingles symptoms. Natural treatments and home remedies may also prove helpful particularly for treatment of shingles on buttocks.
What causes shingles on buttocks and lower back?
When chicken pox patients recover from the disease, varicella-zoster virus doesn’t entirely leave the body. It hides in sensory nerves that serve different dermatomes. A dermatome is an area of the skin served by the same nerve branch terminal originating from the spinal cord. Although it is not fully understood how herpes zoster virus stays in latency for years or decades, it is known that weakened immunity triggers the virus to activate. Rather than causing chicken pox, the activated herpes zoster virus causes shingles.
There are reasons to believe that stress can trigger shingles outbreaks or make symptoms worse. It is not common for shingles to occur in healthy adults below 50 years of age. Apparently, healthy immune systems keep the virus in latency.
Common shingles on buttocks symptoms
As mentioned earlier, shingles is a disease of the nervous system. Herpes zoster virus hides in nerve fibers that serve a particular dermatome. There are several dermatomes on lower back and buttocks. Shingles on buttocks symptoms only occur on the area supplied by affected nerve. This means that you can have an outbreak on lower back but not involving buttocks or vice versa. A defining feature is a shingles rash occurring in a stripe or band-like appearance.
Early shingles symptoms resemble those of common cold or flu. They include fatigue, vomiting, nausea and headache. Fever may be present, but mildly. These symptoms are easy to ignore and may not be correlated with a shingles outbreak.
Just after the onset of the above mentioned symptoms, patients may experience itching, tingling, stinging and burning in localized areas where the shingles rash is to appear. These occur as reactivated varicella-zoster virus leaves nerve fibers for the skin. How long does shingles itch last? Shingles itch can last for 2-4 weeks.
After few days, pain that may be mild, intense, or even excruciating begins. The pain is thought to be caused by over-sensitivity in affected nerves. Since it is not caused by external stimuli, the pain may be present before rash appears and in fact after all symptoms of shingles have disappeared.
Later stages of shingles are marked by appearance of the infamous shingles rash. This happens 2-4 days after first symptoms. Affected areas become red, tender and inflamed. Small lesions that start as spots but quickly develop into blisters or vesicles appear. New lesions may keep appearing for the next few days. A defining characteristic of shingles blisters is the fact that they often break open, ooze and crust over for the next 1-2 weeks.
Shingles on buttocks symptoms can be mistaken for sexually transmitted infection like genital herpes. Although the viruses that cause shingles and genital herpes share a name, having either doesn’t cause the other. For example, having shingles on the buttocks doesn’t lead to herpes in the genitals. However, shingles blisters or genital herpes sores can act as portals of entry for causative viruses.
Treatment for shingles on buttocks
After diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe the following medications.
Acyclovir is the most commonly used antiviral drug for shingles. It has been shown to be effective and safe even in people with serious immune issues. Other almost similar drugs are valacyclovir and famciclovir. They mostly come in oral forms but can be given intravenously in case of serious outbreaks.
Pain relievers can be prescribed by a doctor or be purchased over the counter. They greatly help patients deal with shingles outbreaks, as nerve pain can be intolerable. Powerful pain medications such as opioids should be used with a doctor’s consent and only for short-term.
These medications are primarily used to treat depression but can also be prescribed for shingles pain.
Other conventional medications for shingles that your doctor may prescribe include nerve blockers, analgesics and anticonvulsants. The reason why medications such as used to treat seizures work is because shingles mainly affects nerves.
OTC and home treatments for shingles on buttocks
Two or more weeks of dealing with shingles on the buttocks symptoms can prove the longest weeks of your life. Apart from flu-like symptoms, you will have to deal with pain and blisters which will likely be broken or oozing. Sometimes, areas affected by shingles feel painful even at the lightest touch. Not only will sitting prove difficult but severe pain can also interfere with your walking style. Below are home treatments that may help with shingles.
A cool compress makes the affected areas numb. This reduces pain and may improve itchiness. Other than that, cool compress keeps shingles blisters clean thus preventing bacterial infections. Since no chemically active product is needed, cool compress is considerable for symptoms of shingles on face.
Soaking for 20 minutes in bath water to which 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal have been added relieves itchiness and reduces skin irritation.
Baking soda can be used in baths or as a paste. In baths, add a cup of baking soda to cool bath water and soak for 15 minutes. As a paste, combine baking soda with water and apply directly. This home remedy is quite effective for shingles blisters.
Capsaicin is the substance that makes red peppers hot. It is contained in certain ointments, creams, sprays and patches. Capsaicin is said to be particularly effective for shingles nerve pain. It should be used with care for shingles in ear treatment.
Scratching is one of the things to avoid when dealing with shingles outbreak. But it won’t always be possible to maintain such discipline. A better approach is to use products that help reduce itchiness. Calamine lotion is a good example. Other than reducing itchiness, the lotion may also relieve pain and ease shingles discomfort.
In this category, tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar are included. This is because they produce almost similar benefits with essential oils for shingles. Other than improving symptoms of the disease, they also restore skin integrity. See shingles scars pictures after treatment with essential oils.
Measures such as wearing loose cotton clothes and avoiding hot baths may help. You can also try applying a thin layer of Vaseline to affected areas. It can reduce irritation caused by clothing.
Can shingles on buttocks be prevented?
If you had chicken pox as a child, there is not much that you can do to keep shingles from ever occurring. But since weakened immunity is the main risk factor, measures to improve your health may help. This includes taking in foods rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, zinc and lysine. In fact, lysine supplements are recommended during shingles outbreaks.
Is shingles contagious to toddlers? Shingles itself is not contagious. Herpes zoster virus can however be transmitted to healthy individuals, especially toddlers. If an outbreak occurs 5 days before delivery or 2 days after, mothers should avoid direct contact with their babies until blisters have completely scabbed over. Read more about airborne transmission of shingles for details.
Vaccines for shingles are available but only recommended for persons above the age of 50 years. But due to shingles vaccine cost and duration of effectiveness, vaccines for shingles are best given after the 60th birthday.
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