The Difference Between Shingles and Chickenpox

Shingles and Chickenpox

Shingles and chickenpox are both viral infections that cause painful rashes, and they have affected the humankind for centuries. Though these conditions are not life-threatening, both can be difficult to deal with and can result in permanent discoloration and scarring.

While chickenpox and shingles have almost entirely different symptoms, they have a much closer relationship than most people may think. Here’s a guide to understanding the link between shingles and chickenpox.

Understanding Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a considerably pervasive condition that results in outbreaks of rashes on the entire body. Chickenpox is more common among children, but anyone who has not had chickenpox can become infected at any age. People who are over the age of 50, those with an autoimmune disease, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting chickenpox.

Chickenpox can be transmitted relatively easily as the virus that causes the infection is airborne, which means it can be passed on via coughing, sneezing, and physical contact with rashes. Chickenpox is rarely life-threatening, but it can lead to complications such as pneumonia and hepatitis, especially in adults. The good news is that there is a chickenpox vaccine available.

Understanding Shingles

Shingles causes a painful rash, typically in the shape of a strip on one side of the body. Shingles outbreaks take up to 3-4 weeks to heal and are often accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches, and fatigue.

Unlike chickenpox, shingles generally affects adults aged 50 and older, especially those with a weakened immune system. Though shingles, just like chickenpox, is not deadly, it is a painful condition that can result in long-term complications without proper care and treatment.

The Connection Between Shingles and Chickenpox

Shingles and chickenpox are a result of the same viral infection known as varicella zoster. With treatments, people who get infected with the virus and have a chickenpox outbreak can only suppress the virus, not eliminate it. Hence, the virus remains dormant in the nerves until it gets triggered again and resurfaces as shingles.

There is a shingles vaccination that even those who have had an outbreak of chickenpox or shingles before can get to prevent future outbreaks, which is especially recommended to those over the age of 60.

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Why You Need to Take Shingles Seriously

Shingles

Brought on by the same virus that causes chickenpox, shingles causes a painful rash on the skin. Although it is more common in people over 50 and those with a weakened immune system, anyone can get shingles. While it is often not life-threatening, it is still important to understand the risks and complications associated with the viral infection.

Shingles Scars

In most cases, with proper care and treatment, rashes clear up within 3-4 weeks. However, in some cases, the rashes may get infected and result in permanent scarring or discoloration.

Eye Problems

In cases where it affects the face, it may result in ophthalmic herpes zoster, which is a type of eye infection. An outbreak in the eye can cause vision loss, pain, and scarring and requires immediate treatment.

Postherpetic Neuralgia

In most cases, symptoms improve within 3-4 weeks. However, some people’s nerves incur so much damage that the pain associated with the viral infection may become chronic. Postherpetic neuralgia is one of the most common complications related to shingles.

Encephalitis

Though it is relatively rare, it can also result in swelling of a part of the brain, which is known as encephalitis. Encephalitis can cause headaches, fatigue, fever, seizures, light sensitivity, confusion, and even hallucinations.

Pneumonia

Even though it typically affects the skin, the virus can travel to other organs, like the lungs, which then can lead to pneumonia. However, pneumonia usually improves when it is treated.

Disseminated Rashes

Shingles usually affect a small part of the body, but since the virus is able to travel through the body easily, shingles rashes can also potentially form on larger areas on the skin, which is referred to as disseminated herpes zoster.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

When shingles affect the face, it can potentially harm the nerves in and around the ears, which results in a syndrome known as Ramsay Hunt. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can cause permanent facial paralysis and hearing loss.

Transverse Myelitis

The disease is also known to target the spinal cord by causing inflammation, which is identified as transverse myelitis. This complication can cause pain, incontinence, and in severe cases, paralysis.

Meningitis

Meningitis is another concern associated with the disease that primarily leads to swelling in the brain and spinal cord, which can cause fever, muscle pain, nausea, and stiffness.  

Secondary Infections

The disease also thrives in a body with a weak immune system, and so someone who has the shingles virus is also at risk of other infections due to how compromised their immune system is. A secondary infection can be quite precarious in people who have shingles.  

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Shingles Vaccination

Shingles Vaccination

Shingles is a viral infection that causes painful rashes on the body. Even though shingles is not life-threatening and treatable, in some cases, the symptoms may become long-term without proper care and treatment. Fortunately, there is a shingles vaccination called Zostavax which can prevent symptoms and further complications. Here is some essential information to understand the shingles vaccination.

Shingles Vaccination Is Preventative

Shingles is a result of the same virus that causes chickenpox known as the varicella-zoster virus. Though both conditions are treatable, the virus never leaves an individual’s system and remains inactive for a time until it resurfaces. Getting the vaccination can lower the risk of shingles by at least 50% and also the chances of a breakout following an initial one.

The Shingles Vaccination Contains a Form of the Virus

Zostavax, just like the flu vaccine, has a form of the virus itself to allow the body to build up resistance to battle and prevent outbreaks. The vaccination can effectively prevent new shingles rashes up to 50%.

Individuals Over 60 Should Get Vaccinated

Anyone over 50 can get the vaccination, but those who are at a higher risk such as people over 60 and those with a weakened immune system should get the vaccination even they have had an outbreak of chickenpox or shingles before.

People Who Shouldn’t Get Vaccinated

The vaccination main substance is gelatin, so those with a gelatin allergy mustn’t get vaccinated. People who are HIV-positive or with an autoimmune disease also cannot get the shingles vaccination.

Side Effects

Besides some minor soreness that can happen with any vaccination, the vaccination has no adverse side effects. In rare cases, some may experience temporary body pain and headaches.

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What Causes Shingles?

Causes Shingles

CDC reports that almost 1 out of 3 Americans get a shingles diagnosis in their lives. So what causes shingles? Shingles is a result of the varicella-zoster virus, also known as herpes zoster, which causes a painful rash on the skin.  Causes Shingles

The varicella-zoster virus is the same viral infection that causes chickenpox, so once those with chickenpox get treated and go into remission, the virus remains dormant until it gets triggered by old age, an autoimmune disease, and too much stress and results in shingles.

Consequently, individuals who have had chickenpox are at an increased risk of getting shingles, and while shingles is not contagious, those who have never had the pox nor been vaccinated can become infected via physical contact with shingles rashes. However, in most cases, shingles is not life-threatening and improves on its own within 3-4 weeks.

Nonetheless, shingles treatment is essential in some cases as some patients may suffer from long-term symptoms, especially chronic pain, which can evolve into postherpetic neuralgia. However, this complication is more common among those who are 60 and over.

What Causes Shingles?

Everyone who has had chickenpox has a risk of getting shingles depending on their risk factors as the virus can remain inactive in the nerves for up to decades. Once it gets reactivated, it makes it way through the nerve passageways and results in rashes.

While the exact cause of why the virus resurfaces is unknown, it is typically associated with a weakened immune system, age, and too much stress.

Shingles Risk Factors

Until shingles rashes crust over, it can be contagious to those who have not had chickenpox. People over 50, pregnant women, infants, and individuals with a compromised immune system are at an increased risk of getting shingles.

Some factors that can contribute to the weakening of the immune system include autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, HIV, long-term use of some medications such as steroids, and cancer treatments.

Heeding risk factors and getting shingles treated as quickly as possible is essential to prevent further complications such as postherpetic neuralgia, which causes chronic, long-term pain.

Anyone under the age of 60 should get vaccinated for shingles regardless of whether they have had a breakout before. While it does not work as a cure, it can be an effective preventative measure.

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Treating Shingles

Treating Shingles

Shingles also referred to as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash in the shape of a stripe, usually on one side of the body. Shingles is a result of the same virus that causes chickenpox; following treatment, the virus remains dormant in the body until it gets retriggered later in life. Though it does not have a cure, treating shingles is possible, with low incident rates of recurrence.

Everyone who has had chickenpox is at a risk of getting shingles, which can be triggered by too much stress, a weakened immune system, or another health condition. Even though shingles is not contagious, individuals who have never had chickenpox and without vaccination, exposure to a shingles outbreak can result in the transmission of the virus.

Shingles typically improve within a few weeks, and severe complications such as postherpetic neuralgia where the pain becomes chronic are rare.

Standard Shingles Treatment

Since shingles cannot be cured, the main goal of shingles treatment entails lessening pain, reducing the length of breakouts, and preventing complications. Typically, antiviral medications such as Valtrex and Zovirax are used to increase immune system function in order to alleviate pain and speed up recovery.  

Topical ointments, over-the-counter pain medications, and antidepressants can also be used to manage pain long-term. It is best if you begin treatment as soon as you start experiencing pain and irritation.

Natural Shingles Treatment

Taking good care of yourself and at-home remedies are also integral parts of any shingles treatment plan. It is important to be in tune with your body and get as much rest as your body requires during your treatment. Having a healthy, balanced diet rich in Vitamin B and C boosts immune system function, which is key in treating and preventing shingles.

Since stress is a contributing factor to shingles, managing stress is essential in preventing outbreaks and speeding up recovery. Cool baths and cool baths can also relieve itching and irritation associated with shingles. Keeping your rashes clean is also important to avoid pain and itching. Over-the-counter pain relievers like Advil can improve shingles symptoms during an outbreak as well.

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Symptoms of Shingles

Symptoms of Shingles

The main symptom of shingles is a blistering rash most typically in the shape of a stripe on one side of the body caused by the same virus, herpes zoster, that results in chickenpox. However, there are more symptoms of shingles.

Those who have had chickenpox are more likely to get shingles, as well as people who are 50+ years old and have a weakened immune system due to another health condition. After chickenpox gets treated, the virus remains dormant in the body until such time it is triggered and causes a breakout of the staple shingles rash.

The shingles virus does not have a cure, but it is treatable and rarely recurs. The goal of shingles treatment is to relieve pain, reduce the length of breakouts, and prevent further complications, which typically involves the use of antiviral medications.

Primary Shingles Symptoms

In the beginning, before the rash appears, shingles symptoms may be difficult to diagnose or can be misdiagnosed. In most cases, the primary symptoms of shingles are similar to the flu such as headaches, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, swelling of the lymph nodes and light sensitivity.

In the next stage, the patient may begin to experience tingling, itching, inflammation, and tenderness in certain parts of the body, typically where the rashes are to appear. Finally, the shingles rash starts to appear in the form of small red dots or blisters initially, ultimately taking the shape of the trademark stripe.

In most cases, shingles rashes occur on one side but any part of the body. The rash can eventually become pus-filled, break open, and scab as the accompanying symptoms also intensify. These symptoms usually last up to 3-5 weeks.

Postherpetic Neuralgia

Postherpetic neuralgia is the biggest concern regarding shingles as it is the case where the symptoms persist longer than several weeks and can become chronic, lasting for months or years. Postherpetic neuralgia causes extreme pain, tenderness, and burning on the sites of original shingles rashes, which can result in long-lasting pain.

Postherpetic neuralgia can have a grave impact on an individual’s life as it typically targets the chest and forehead, which can lead to difficulty sleeping, eating, and performing daily tasks.

Although there is no cure, antiviral medications to alleviate pain and shorten the duration of outbreaks are highly effective in managing the condition and preventing further complications. Pain medications, topical ointments, and antidepressants can also be used in addition to antivirals to manage pain in the long run.

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Home Remedies for Shingles

Home Remedies for Shingles

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus that results in chickenpox. Shingles’ staple symptom is a painful rash on the skin, usually on one side of the body. Almost 1 out every 3 Americans get diagnosed with shingle once in their life. However, there are home remedies for shingles available.

Shingles cannot be cured but can be treated using antivirals to suppress the virus and alleviate symptoms. Additionally, some natural at-home treatment options can also be beneficial in fighting shingles.

Ointments

Shingles rashes cause itching and inflammation, and scratching can worsen the rashes, leading to scarring. Although most natural shingles creams and ointments are temporary relief options, they can reduce pain and irritation, especially those that contain the ingredient capsaicin.

Applying Cool Compress

Cool, wet compresses on shingles rashes can be effective in relieving irritation and itching, as well as pain. All you need is a towel or cloth which you can soak in cold water and apply to your rashes. However, it is important to avoid ice packs and compresses that are too cold.

Take Oatmeal Baths

Warm baths with colloidal oatmeal can also improve shingles symptoms short-term. However, it is important to use lukewarm or cool water as hot water can worsen rashes.

Vitamin C

A weak immune system has a harder time fighting off shingles, which in turn makes the treatment of the virus more taxing. A healthy diet rich in foods that are high in Vitamin A, B, C, and E is essential to boost immune system function. Staying hydrated, consuming lots of cruciferous vegetables, garlic, and onions are also integral to keeping shingles symptoms at bay.

Essential Oils

Applying essential oils like tea tree oil, lavender, peppermint, and especially geranium to your rashes can improve irritation and pain. In fact, geranium oil can be even more effective than capsaicin if used consistently.

Avoid Stress

Stress can be a contributing factor to shingles rashes, so managing stress is an important part of treating and preventing shingles as stress can also have a significant impact on the immune system.

Supplements

Echinacea has been shown to help those with shingles due to its natural infection fighting properties. The recommended dosage is 500 mg up to three times per day. Zinc is a natural antiviral and can also improve immune function, and the recommended dose is 50 mg per day.

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Shingles Explained

Shingles

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is the same virus that causes chickenpox and results in painful rashes on the skin. The virus remains in the body even after chickenpox is treated and can reappear as shingles.

In most cases, the virus typically gets triggered by autoimmune diseases, being over the age of 50, or stress. While shingles normally cannot be transmitted via physical contact, someone with a rash can pass the virus onto an individual who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated. In most cases, shingles is entirely treatable and manageable.

Symptoms of Shingles

Primary symptoms are difficult to identify and may be misdiagnosed. The symptoms in the initial stage are usually flu-like like as headaches, fever, and light sensitivity.

In the following stage, the condition may cause itching, tenderness, tingling, and sudden pain in certain parts of the body. The third stage of shingles is when the trademark stripe rash usually appears, most commonly on one side of the body.

These rashes may be painful blisters and pus-filled but typically improve within two weeks. However, shingles outbreaks may result in some discoloration. If you experience symptoms such as growing rashes, vision problems, dizziness, and confusion, it is best to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Treating Shingles

There is no cure, but there are treatment options to relieve pain, speed up the healing process, and prevent further complications. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are key.

In most cases, treating shingles involves the use of antiviral medications to battle the attack against the immune system. Antidepressants, over-the-counter pain medications, and topical treatments can also improve symptoms and lessen the impact of the viral infection.

Following your treatment to a T, keeping your rashes clean, and avoiding stress are important steps in preventing shingles from leading to complications.

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