Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chicken pox. For this reason, you can only have shingles if you have ever had chicken pox. Many people did get chicken pox during their childhood years but don’t remember.
1 in 3 persons will get shingles in their lifetime. More details can be found on history of shingles ICD 10. Outbreaks usually come only once but may recur in some patients. Commonly affected areas are the face, chest and lower back.
People with shingles experience a painful rash with blisters. Although the disease is rarely fatal, it can prove discomforting and a great source of pain. This article investigates shingles in genital area and how it compares with genital herpes.
Can shingles affect genital area?
Our bodies become resistant to chicken pox after the first attack. When the causative virus is activated, it is kept from causing widespread signs, which then results in shingles. And why do some people get more outbreaks than others? It mostly is an issue of weakened immunity. When the body’s defense mechanism is down, pathogens like herpes zoster have nothing to keep them from being active. This is why more than half of all shingles cases are reported in individuals above the age of 50 years.
Herpes zoster virus hides in nerves that innervate different dermatomes. So can shingles affect genital area? It is not common but not impossible. The genital area is covered by several sacral dermatomes which are served by nerves S3, S4 and S5. This includes the buttocks and perianal area. If herpes zoster affects any of these nerves, shingles will appear in the genital area.
Shingles is more a disease of the skin rather than of mucous membranes such as on vagina or penis. For this reason, incidence rate is much higher on buttocks rather than the genital area.
Genital shingles symptoms
Flu-like symptoms like fatigue, malaise, headache and nausea are usually the first symptoms of shingles. They appear before rash and thus may be mistaken for a cold or flu. The symptoms persist until shingles approaches its final stages.
Pain is almost always among the early symptoms of shingles. It may begin with tingling, burning or stinging. Some patients do not notice these symptoms because they usually are mild. A majority of patients are able to recover from shingles pain after about 4 or 5 weeks. This is the period it takes for shingles to completely go away. If pain persists, the condition is known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
Red rash characterized by swollen areas and fluid-filled lesions appear few days after first symptoms. The lesions quickly become blisters and may ooze before crusting over. New lesions continue forming for about 4 days. Ruptured blisters may take several days before completely crusting over.
The defining characteristic of shingles rash is that it appears on localized areas and tends to form a stripe or band-like appearance. The rash doesn’t spread but may involve an adjacent dermatome. This can be seen in genital shingles pictures.
Genital herpes vs shingles; causes, symptoms, treatment
The fact that genital herpes and herpes zoster share a name should not be misinterpreted. While both are caused by viruses from the herpes family, they are different diseases with different symptoms. Below are things you should know about genital herpes vs shingles.
Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus, usually type 2. Type 1 usually causes oral herpes or cold sores. The virus is passed from person to person during sexual intercourse. Oral and anal sex can also transmit it. Once in the body, the virus causes an initial infection and lies dormant only to reactivate when certain factors such as stress and trauma are present.
Shingles is caused by reactivated varicella-zoster virus. Here, we see a similarity between these two viruses, the fact that both can stay in latency in the body. Shingles is not contagious but herpes zoster virus is.
Genital herpes may begin with flu-like symptoms. With time, itching, tingling and burning occur in the perineal area. Small painful blisters soon appear on vaginal area, including on labia and inside vagina and on cervix. In men, the vesicles appear on penis and perineal area and may involve the scrotum.
Shingles presents with painful rash and blisters. The main difference is the fact that shingles rash is not disseminated to other dermatomes. It also doesn’t cross the body’s middle line.
Before treatment, diagnosis may be done by viral swab of blister fluid. Sometimes, doctors are able to recognize herpes from patient’s symptoms and medical history. Herpes has no known cure. It can however be managed with antiviral drugs like acyclovir. Topical medications and home remedies may help improve symptoms like itching and pain. For people with recurrent genital herpes, prophylactic therapy may be used for treatment.
Shingles also has no known cure. Antiviral drugs are given to improve its symptoms and quicken recovery. Patients can also find home remedies and over the counter products helpful. How long does shingles last untreated? If no complications are involved, a maximum of 5 weeks is what it takes shingles to heal without treatment. If post-herpetic neuralgia is involved, it can take months or years before the pain goes away on its own.
Genital shingles treatment at home
The following natural remedies for shingles can help especially in reducing pain and itchiness. It is important to remember that treatment done at home should not be fully depended on. If the infection is not improving, check with your doctor. In fact, homeopathic cure for shingles is another available option.
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. This can prove important when dealing with shingles symptoms armpit.
Scratching is one of the things to avoid when dealing with a shingles outbreak. But not always will it 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.
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.
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.
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.
Soaking for 20 minutes in bath water into which 2 cups of colloidal oatmeal have been added relieves itchiness and reduces skin irritation.
How to prevent genital shingles
Unlike herpes, you cannot get shingles in the genital area after having sex with an infected person. The disease is not contagious. However, coming into contact with blister fluid can transmit the herpes zoster virus. If you have never had chicken pox, the first contact with herpes zoster virus will result in a chicken pox infection.
Prevention therefore mostly involves avoiding direct contact with an infected person. This doesn’t mean that shingles patients should be heavily isolated. Just covering the rash is usually enough.
Pregnant mothers should avoid contact with their babies if an outbreak occurs a week after or before delivery. This helps avoid shingles and pregnancy complications. You find that shingles virus is most contagious during the blister-phase. Taking medications helps reduce the period during which a patient remains contagious.
Finally, consider getting a shingles vaccine. While vaccines do not cure diseases, they help prevent severe outbreaks and also promote quicker recovery. Zostavax is the oldest shingles vaccine we have around. It was approved by FDA in 2006. Its effectiveness is about 5 years. Currently, a shingles vaccine booster is not yet approved. Shingrix is the other option. It was approved in 2017. Its effectiveness is thought to be more than 5 years. You can get Shingrix even if you have had Zostavax.
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