Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Although its outbreak is not life-threatening, it can result in chronic pain that can interfere with daily activities and standard sleep patterns. Generally, the blisters that form with this condition will begin to heal in a few weeks, but in some cases, damage to the nerves can occur that results in ongoing nerve pain. Here’s a closer look at symptoms and how long they can cause problems.
Where Does This Condition Come From?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Although chickenpox can result in minor symptoms when you are young, the varicella-zoster virus, a type of herpes virus, can remain in nerve cells in an inactive state for many years. As individuals age, their immune systems may become less efficient against the virus, and an outbreak can occur.
Who Is Likely To Experience This Skin Problem?
If you have had chickenpox at an earlier stage in life, the varicella-zoster may lie dormant in nerve cells in the body. Years later, the virus can become activated, causing a red rash, blistering, burning pain, numbness, tingling, and itching. Some individuals may also experience fatigue, fever, sensitivity to light, and headache. An outbreak starts as a single stripe of rash on one side of the body but can sometimes erupt on the face or neck. In some cases, the pain can be intense. An outbreak may last for 4 to 6 weeks, with blisters gradually healing and fading away. Shingles cream can help treat these eruptions. The virus can be transmitted from contact with the fluid-filled blisters, if another individual has had chickenpox in the past and has not had the vaccine.
Other Risk Factors
Research suggests that stress and having a high-stress job can put individuals at higher risk for developing this condition. This is thought to result from stress on lowering immune system function that keeps the varicella-zoster virus in check. Other factors include having a mood disorder, being older, and having a poor diet.
Long-term Pain Can Occur
One of the complications of this condition is long-term nerve pain. This condition is called “postherpetic neuralgia,” or PHN. Nerve pain can be permanent and may require ongoing treatment with medications and shingles cream. About 10 to 18 percent of individuals who experience symptoms will be left with this lasting nerve pain. PHN is more common in older patients than younger ones. The discomfort can affect the ability to engage in everyday activities and may require taking pain medications regularly.
Tips For Managing Symptoms
You can help to manage uncomfortable symptoms with a few proactive measures:
- Cleanse the area gently with a fragrance-free soap.
- Apply a layer of petroleum jelly over the affected area.
- Cover the blisters with a sterile, non-stick bandage.
- Wash hands carefully after touching the area to avoid transmitting the virus to others.
- A cool compress or oatmeal bath can relieve itching and pain.
- Apply the best cream for shingles available to control itching and discomfort.
- Get a good night’s sleep and rest frequently.
- Eat healthy foods, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and healthy oils.
- See your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect your rash is caused by shingles, to receive additional treatment, if needed.
Generally, individuals experience an outbreak only once. However, some individuals may have additional outbreaks. If you have had chickenpox as a child, discuss receiving the vaccine with your doctor so that you can avoid the unpleasant symptoms related to this viral condition. If you are dealing with symptoms and wondering what is the best cream to put on shingles, an effective cream containing natural and soothing ingredients can offer significant relief. It will help to make the symptoms of shingles much more bearable.