Shingles

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Overview

It is a viral infection, triggered by the Varicella-Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After the chickenpox subsides, the virus becomes inactive and stays in the ganglia (collection of nervous tissue). The inactive virus can reactivate years later and cause shingles.

Causes

The exact cause of shingles is unknown, but it is thought that the inactive virus becomes reactivated when the patient’s immune system becomes weak as a result of old age or fighting off infections.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms are usually experienced in a specific region on one side of the body, some of them are:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Red, painful rash
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is primarily clinical, made by history and physical examination. For confirmation, a scraping of the blisters for examination in the laboratory may also be taken.

Treatment

The treatment of shingles is done with antivirals. The following antiviral drugs are used most commonly:

  • Acyclovir
  • Ganciclovir
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