If you’ve had chickenpox you’re at risk of a painful condition called shingles here’s why – Insider – INSIDER

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that usually results in rashes or blisters that most typically develop in a linear pattern on one side of your body.

The infection is common and about 1 in 3 people get shingles in their lifetime. It's caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, so if you've had chickenpox, you're at risk to develop shingles.

Here's what you need to know about the causes of shingles, as well as how to treat and prevent it.

A rash with blisters is the main visible symptom of shingles. The typical rash appears on one side of the body in a narrow band-like distribution and is most common along the torso.

Some other symptoms of shingles include:

If you had chickenpox when you were younger, your body was exposed to the varicella-zoster virus. Even after your chickenpox has healed, the virus remains in your body for the rest of your life. That's why you usually can't get chickenpox twice.

The virus lives in an inactive state in the dorsal root ganglion, which is a cluster of neurons that carry sensory information to the spinal cord, says Caroline Nelson, MD, a dermatologist at Yale Medicine. In this inactive state, the virus is harmless. Only once your immune system weakens to the point where it can no longer keep it under control does the virus reactivate causing shingles.

When the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, it travels down the nerve fibers that go from the dorsal root ganglia to the surface of the skin. As the virus multiplies, you typically develop the rash that is the telltale sign of shingles.

Everyone who has had chickenpox has the varicella zoster virus in their body, putting them at risk for developing shingles. While there is no way of knowing who will or will not get shingles, certain factors that impair the immune system but people at greater risk. Some of these factors are:

The main treatment for shingles is antiviral medications. The most common antiviral meds for shingles are:

If you think you have shingles, do not hesitate to get treatment. These medications will help reduce the severity and the duration of your shingles if you take them early. "Time matters. Antivirals are most effective when started within 72 hours of the appearance of skin lesions," says Nelson.

"[Antivirals] can accelerate lesion crusting and crust resolution by one to two days, reduce duration of viral shedding, reduce duration of acute pain, and perhaps most importantly reduce the duration of post-herpetic neuralgia," says Nelson.

Post-herpetic neuralgia is a complication that can result in the pain, itching, and numbness from shingles to last three or more months after the shingles infection.

Aside from getting the virus itself under control, you can also relieve the discomfort of your symptoms by:

Nelson calls vaccines the cornerstone of prevention for shingles. Even if you had chickenpox as a child, you can, and should, still get vaccinated for shingles.

The FDA approved a vaccine called Shingrix in 2017. According to the CDC, two doses of Shingrix was 97% effective for people aged 50-69 years old, and 91% effective in those 70 years and older.

Nelson recommends the vaccine for people who:

Additionally, you can try to keep stress levels under control so that you can reduce that risk factor, as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle to have a stronger immune system.

If you think you may have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible so you can receive treatment and feel some relief from the discomfort. Also, be sure to avoid others, especially those who have not had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or those who are immunocompromised.

While you can't directly transmit shingles to somebody, you can infect them with chickenpox through open blisters. However, once the rash is crusted over, you aren't infectious anymore.

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If you've had chickenpox you're at risk of a painful condition called shingles here's why - Insider - INSIDER

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