What is Shingles?

Herpes zoster, also known as shingles is a highly contagious disease attributable to the reactivation of the dormant human herpes virus type 3 virus situated in the dorsal nerve root ganglion of the spinal nerves. The virus can migrate along the path of a nerve to the skin surface causing a rash of painful blisters. This disorder affects only those who once have had chicken pox and commonly hits over age 50. In a client with a history of chickenpox, shingles can occur at some immunocompromised situations. Prognosis is good except when the virus extends to central nervous system.

It is still undefined how and why reactivation happens. It is assumed that the virus reactivates when, as a result of old age, illness, cancer, stress or immunosuppressant medications, the immune system turns out to be too vulnerable to keep the virus in a state of dormancy. After viral reactivation, the chicken pox virus travels down the sensory nerve into the skin to cause shingles.

In early stages, there is a tingling, itching, lightning bolt sensation followed by pain on one side of the body. One to three days after the pain starts, a rash with raised, red lumps and blisters erupts on the skin surface following a dermatomal outline or a ray-like distribution as blisters follow the pathway of individual nerves. They start to become pustules, and then scabs form by 10 days.

Separate the infected person from others because exudates from the lesions hold the virus. Maintain standard precautions. Use an air mattress on the bed and keep the atmosphere cool. Never scratch the skin where the rash is located to avoid the risk of secondary infections and scarring. To soothe the blisters, render cool water compress to suppurating blisters for 20 minutes many times a day. In the early stage of the disease, antiviral drugs may be combined with a strong corticosteroid to speed up healing and diminish the extent of pain. In the most critical situations, blocking agents are given via injection to stop pain signals from reaching the brain.



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