Shingles is caused by the reactivation of varicella zoster virus in the spinal cord causing severe pain and rash.
People usually develop chicken pox during childhood or even when they grow older.
Varicella zoster is a herpes-type virus that causes chicken pox.
After appropriate treatment of chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus moves from the skin along the nerves and settles in the area of dorsal root ganglia (ganglion of the posterior root of spinal segmental nerve).
The virus will remain there for many years in an inactivate state until the immune system works well. When the immune system weakens or lowered (such as AIDS, cancer, etc that lowers the immune system), the varicella zoster virus will be activated again.
The virus that is activated starts to multiply within the dorsal root ganglia causing swelling and damage to the nerves of dorsal root ganglia. This damage causes severe pain, swelling, and rash on the skin of shingles.
The main symptom of shingles is over sensitivity and burning sensation. First, you will see red spots or reddened skin in the affected areas. These red spots will then turn into small blisters, which after a few days dry up leaving small pockmarks on the area.
Effects of shingles on your health:
Shingles can sometimes affect the eyes. In such case, consulting an ophthalmologist is necessary. It sometimes affects ears causing dizziness, earache, deafness, and paralysis of the face (Ramsay Hunt Syndrome). Encephalitis is another rare complication of shingles with symptoms of confusion and high fever.
Shingles in pregnancy is very dangerous. It can lead to pneumonia in pregnant women. It can cause the child expose to varicella zoster virus and also cause miscarriages.
Post-hepatic neuralgia with shingles:
Among twenty to thirty percent of people who are diagnosed with shingles will continue to suffer post-hepatic neuralgia (PHN). Post-hepatic neuralgia is a health condition in which the pain is more severe than shingles.
People usually suffer from shingles for about a month, but the pain and skin sensitivity will go on to continue for months or years resulting in post-hepatic neuralgia. However, you will develop post-hepatic neuralgia pain long after the shingles heals. This pain will be piercing type, sharp, or stabbing resulting in severe skin sensitivity that you cannot even tolerate light touch.
The source of post-hepatic pain is damage of nerve fibers due to shingles infection. This post-hepatic pain will be either in the same area as the rash of shingles, smaller areas within the rash of shingles, or larger areas than the original rash of shingles.
According to the recent research, among one out of five patients with shingles suffer from post-hepatic neuralgia. However, the risk of developing post-hepatic neuralgia depends on the age, which means the older age when patient gets shingles the more chances to develop post-hepatic neuralgia.
In most cases, shingles is mild with no medical treatment required. Early treatment helps reducing the severity and complications of shingles.
If there are symptoms such as high fever, confusion, loss of memory, symptoms affecting the ear area, or severe headache, immediate treatment is required.