Shingles - Experience

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What is shingles? What causes shingles?

Shingles is a skin rash caused by a nerve and skin inflammation from the same virus that previously caused chickenpox. This virus is called the varicella zoster virus (VZV) and belongs to the herpes family of viruses. After an individual has chickenpox, this virus lives dormant in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body. Under certain circumstances, such as emotional stress, immune deficiency (from AIDS or chemotherapy), or with cancer, the virus reactivates and causes shingles. In most cases of shingles, however, a cause for the reactivation of the virus is never found. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk for the development of shingles, although it occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60. It has been estimated that up to 1,000,000 cases of shingles occur each year in the U.S.

The herpes virus that causes shingles and chickenpox is not the same as the herpes viruses that causes genital herpes (which can be sexually transmitted) or herpes mouth sores. Shingles is medically termed herpes zoster.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 15

I am a 53 year old female with lupus. I was diagnosed with shingles on New Year's Eve. It was on my right scalp, forehead and also affected my right eye. I started anti viral medication, and drops for my eye. I am still on drops for my eye. I still have itching on the scalp and forehead and when I scratch it seems to break out. I use Capsaicin for the itching and it does work but it hurts like crazy if it accidentally gets in my eye.

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Comment from: Cindy R., 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 07

Two years ago this month while sitting on the floor, I suddenly had a horrific shooting pain, like a 12 inch serrated knife blade shoot through my right eye. Within a few seconds, I saw smoke, lightning flashes then my world went dark gray. Prior to this experience, the only thing I had noted was feeling of skin crawling, burning in my throat, an earache with some dizziness and an intense itching buried in the death of my skin. It was horrible! Since, my diet has had to change because I cannot eat certain foods like oranges, yogurt with fruit, etc. More so, my life has changed! This night two years ago the cornea of my right eye ruptured and a shingle now lives active on the front of my eye controlling my every move and emotion. I no longer work, still have intense shooting pain when I least expect it, cannot drive at night because of light sensitivity and fogged vision and I have to regulate my every move and reaction to stressful moments just to exist. I have been through a gamut of health care physicians who blew off my symptoms because there are no external signs of rash, scars or symptoms. The only person who took me serious, other than my significant other, was my optometrist. He is the one who finally came to understand I am an internal shingle carrier. Shingles will change your life when left untreated. My only suggestion is twofold: first take the vaccine if you possibly can as it may not prevent shingles, but it will reduce the magnitude of your symptoms and length of stay. Second, when you suddenly experience burning, itching, swelling in lymph nodes, or an unfamiliar rash - seek attention! I know one day I will be blind from another opening of my cornea. Until that happens I will give my body the respect it deserves, listen wisely to what it is telling me, and will take my acyclovir every single day for the rest of my life because my little eye shingle refuses to go dormant and gets angry very quickly. I share my experience because I would never ever want your life to change as has mine.

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