Helpful Infos About Shingles Virus

"Shingles is actually the reactivation of the chickenpox virus," Dr. Jennifer Ashton explains on the CBS Early Show. "So if you've had the chickenpox, you can get shingles and in fact, about a million Americans get it every year. It causes these painful blisters, usually they occur in a strip or a patch of the body -- always in one spot," which is usually along the abdomen or the forehead. "And it is excruciatingly painful." Usually it starts with pain -- like a headache for a week -- and then the painful rash develops. The actual shingles virus remains dormant in the nerve endings for many, many years and re-emerges during a time when one's immune system is weakened, either through age or extreme physical/emotional stress. Dr. Ashton adds that nerve ending pain is the most excruciating type of pain one can endure.

Doctors diagnose the shingles virus once the painful rash appears by looking at the way the spots are distributed. Most commonly, the shingles rash appears in a defined band on one side of the torso or face. This appears different from dermatitis and poison ivy. In fact, the word "shingles" itself derives from the Latin word "cingulum," which means girdle or belt. A lab diagnosis can also confirm the viral nature of the telltale spots. Most people will receive an oral anti-viral and chronic pain medications from their doctors and go home to recover over the month without incident. However, some people experience rather severe complications.

One of these shingles virus complications is called the Ramsay Hunt syndrome. This occurs when the varicella zoster virus runs down a facial nerve, causing severe ear pain and rash expansion over delicate areas of the face. The rash covers the outer ear, the ear canal and even the soft palate on the roof of the mouth. The eye and the neck can also be affected, making it difficult to see or breathe. Sufferers, like late night TV host David Letterman and Maggie Rodriguez, the host of The Early Show on CBS, report that one of their eyes actually swelled shut and they felt the worst pain of their lives battling the painful rash. Luckily, neither case resulted in temporary facial paralysis, but that is another noted symptom of this viral disease.

Many people wonder if the shingles virus is contagious. While the chickenpox virus is extremely contagious and easily spreads from one person to the next via contact with the skin or lesion fluid, a person cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox can get the virus from someone with an active case of shingles. Therefore, people in the blistering rash stage are generally advised to stay away from pregnant women, children and those who've never had chickenpox -- at least until the sores heal.

Related topics about shingles virus
Shingles Vaccine
The shingles virus is an unsightly belt-like rash accompanied by pain, which is a form of chickenpox that usually comes later in life. The visible symptoms last 2-4 weeks, as do other symptoms like fatigue, headaches, fever, chills, body aches and discomfort. Of those who develop shingles, 1 in 5 suffer a serious complication known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which means the pain lingers long after the blistering sores have gone.

Shingles Disease
At its dark ugly heart, the shingles disease is a viral infection that outwardly displays itself as a painful and unsightly rash. Although shingles can appear anywhere on the body, the blisters most commonly form a band wrapping from the middle of the back around one side to the chest's center. Doctors say that the varicella-zoster virus sometimes lies dormant in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain, later reactivating as the extremely painful shingles.