For some people, the effects of chicken pox don’t end with the itching and scratching. Years after contracting the virus those who’ve had chicken pox may suffer from shingles.
The varicella zoster virus remains dormant on nerve roots in people who had chicken pox. The virus can remain dormant for the remainder of a chicken pox sufferer’s life. For others, aging, diseases or stress that leads to weakened immune systems can activate the virus. More Shingles cases are identified in those over the age of 50.
Shingles is characterized by a painful skin rash. Flu-like symptoms are the first sign of shingles followed by itching and/or pain at a localized part of the body or face. Eventually a rash appears morphing into fluid-like blisters. The blisters may take up to four weeks to heal and can cause scarring in extreme cases. The severity of shingles depends on the person. Some patients may not suffer from blistering.
A doctor may prescribe pain or anti-viral medications to patients to help alleviate symptoms and speed recovery. Shingles is not contagious, but someone who has not had chicken pox or been vaccinated could contract chicken pox if direct contact is made with the Shingles rash in the blistering stage. “Persons with shingles can spread it about 1-2 days before the rash appears and until the vesicles are scabbed,” Dr. Alexandru David of Rocky Mountain Infectious Diseases said.
Patients who have a Shingles rash or blisters should refrain from touching the affected area. Keeping the area clean is important. Calming lotions, such as calamine, or baths may offer relief as well as cool, wet compresses.