Shingles is not an uncommon disease. It affects about 1 in every 3 persons. While it presents with signs of a skin infection, it actually is a disease of the nervous system.
Only a person who has had chicken pox in the past can get shingles. This is because the two infections are both caused by varicella-zoster virus. Chicken pox causes more widespread symptoms, while shingles is localized to individual dermatomes.
There is no cure for shingles. However, medications to improve symptoms and prevent complications are available. Patients are advised to start treatment within 72 hours of early shingles symptoms. Although shingles can affect any part of the body, the lower back, chest, trunk and face are most commonly affected.
Symptoms of shingles on back, chest and stomach
No matter where they occur, the symptoms of shingles do not change much. The symptoms can be divided in three categories for simplicity.
It is common for infections to result in flu-like symptoms. In case of shingles, these symptoms usually are the first to show up. These include:
Most patients complain about a nagging fatigue more than any of the listed symptoms.
Pain, itching and tingling:
The herpes zoster virus remains in nerve fibers in latency until activated. Once triggered, it replicates and moves towards the skin. During this process, patients usually experience some tingling, burning, stinging or itching. These symptoms may soon develop into pain. Sometimes, however, pain develops without these other symptoms ever presenting.
Rash and blister:
Shingles can be recognized from the pattern and nature of its rash and blisters. It may take up to 3 days after the first symptoms before the rash appears. The most defining feature is the formation of a band-like rash on localized areas. The formed rash only involves one side of the body. For example, symptoms of shingles on back will only involve either the right side or the left side, but not both. See shingles pictures on back for illustrations. If you have a rash on both sides of the body, start with ruling out shingles.
Shingles rash starts with redness, warmth and inflammation. Soon, lesions appear on the affected areas. The lesions start as tiny spots which then become elevated and later develop into blisters. It is common for new lesions to keep forming for several days. Shingles blisters may break open and ooze before crusting over. The whole process takes 2-4 weeks.
Shingles back pain treatment and causes
Herpes zoster virus affects sensory nerves that serve different dermatomes. These nerves take signals from the skin to the brain. Sometimes, the reactivated virus causes damage to the nerves, so that misfires repeatedly occur in the nerves even after recovery. The misfired signals are translated as pain in the brain. In other cases, inflammation causes prolonged pain in sensitive nerves and continues to do so even after the outbreak is over. This results in tingling, intense or stabbing pain that seems to alternate between the back and chest.
Most cases of back pain caused by shingles last for about 2-4 weeks. This is the same period that a shingles outbreak takes to go away. If the pain outlasts other symptoms and actually shows no signs of coming to a halt, post-herpetic neuralgia is said to have occurred. Since shingles is not the primary infection caused by varicella-zoster virus, it may be hard to state its incubation period. Visible signs however start showing up about 2 days after the first symptoms.
What is the best shingles back pain treatment? Acute shingles symptoms can be managed with antiviral drugs like acyclovir. Mild pain may respond effectively to over the counter pain relievers. If not, your doctor will prescribe stronger medications like opioids.
Post-herpetic neuralgia requires a variety of medications, from pain relievers to antidepressants and anticonvulsants. The pain can also be treated with topical products designed to release small doses of anesthetics. Lidocaine is a good example. Topical products are more easily used when dealing with shingles leg pain treatment compared to back pain.
Shingles chest pain causes and treatment
Shingles is not considered a fatal disease but can cause serious complications which may ultimately prove fatal. Shingles chest pain is a good example. Shingles on scalp symptoms can on the other hand cause inflammation in brain which is even more dangerous.
Blisters present during a shingles outbreak often break open and ooze. When the rupturing occurs in artery wall, it significantly raises the risk of blood clots. Blood clots make it hard for blood to pass freely in blood vessels. The results are that the heart has to pump with more pressure, which may not only lead to fatigue in the heart muscles but also rupturing of blood vessels. All these have serious consequences.
Chest pain during a shingles outbreak is caused by the same factors that cause back pain. It starts with damage being sustained in the sensory nerves affected by herpes zoster virus. If the pain doesn’t go away with other symptoms, it will be there for quite some time. The problem is that even a simple touch can cause intense internal shingles pain.
Sometimes, inflammation is so intense that it causes intense pain behind the breastbone or even throat. Such case requires medical treatment for it can lead to complications. The best way to handle post-herpetic pain is to get medical help. Your doctor will prescribe any one or several of the available options.
How to treat shingles chest pain at home
Shingles chest pain can be mistaken for early warnings of a heart attack or a cardiovascular disease. This is especially so if the pain is not accompanied by a tell-tale shingles rash and blisters. As long as the pain is not intolerable and has not persisted for more than 2 weeks, home treatments may work.
Start with cool compressing. A cool compress may not only reduce pain but will also relieve itchiness. On top of that, it helps keep affected areas clean so that bacterial infections are avoided. This treatment is also a potential option to consider when treating shingles rash on face.
Try ointments that contain capsaicin. Capsaicin is the substance that makes red peppers hot. It is said to relieve shingles nerve pain almost more effectively than any other home remedy. If ointments are not available, red pepper extract can be used to make a paste.
Apply essential oils for shingles pain, itchiness and improved skin integrity. Good examples include frankincense oil and lavender oil. Their effectiveness can be seen in shingles in children photos before and after use.
Use over the counter pain relievers and topical corticosteroids. One reason why shingles may be causing pain could be that sensitive nerves have become inflamed. Topical corticosteroids excel in reducing inflammation. They are particularly helpful with shingles in ear treatment.
Lysine supplements have for example been shown to be effective in reducing severity of shingles symptoms. Minerals like zinc and vitamins like vitamin C are known to play vital roles in development of a strong immune system. If not available in foods, they can also be taken through supplements.
Consider shingles vaccines. Ensure to learn the benefits and shingles vaccine side effects before going for them.
Shingles on stomach causes, symptoms and treatments
Shingles on stomach mostly appears on the lower abdomen. If a rash is present, it will form a band-like appearance. Since the disease is not contagious, having symptoms on the lower stomach cannot lead to symptoms on the buttocks, and vice versa.
Anyone can get shingles but people with serious immune issues are more likely to develop severe or recurring cases. Age is considered a risk factor. This is because our immune systems tend to become less efficient as we age. Does stress cause shingles? It technically does not, but can lead to weakened immunity.
Treatment is best done with antiviral drugs. Pain relievers also usually form a pivotal part of shingles treatment. Other options include antidepressants, analgesics, anticonvulsants and corticosteroids. Self-care measures such as shingles airborne precautions are important in regards to preventing shingles.
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