What is Shingles? How to Recognize It, and How to Treat It.


Shingles is a very misunderstood illness.  Many people believe it is something much worse than it is.  Because Shingles is a form of herpes there is a horrible misconception about it being contagious.  Herpes is not only an STD.  There are so many forms of Herpes; someone may have a form of Herpes and not even know it.  In fact, if you have had Chicken Pox you have a form of Herpes.  If you have experienced Shingles you know how awful it can be.  Shingles itself, is not contagious.

Shingles is actually a spin off of Chicken Pox.  It usually presents in ages over 50 and rarely in ages under 20.  Although it is possible.  My daughter was sixteen when she presented with Shingles.  I was very confused and thought she had poison oak.  Because of our location, I doubted poison oak.  We lived in the city and she had not been around any wooded areas.  Being a concerned parent I immediately scheduled an appoinment and got on the internet.  I looked up many different possibilities including heat rash and an allergic reaction.  When we arrived at the doctor; he looked at it with confusion.  He had no idea what it was and I felt dissappointed.  I couldn't control my thoughts and blurted out, "Doesn't that look like Shingles."  The doctor immediately stated that Shingles doesn't usually show up in teens.  I asked him if it was possible and he couldn't say no.  He ended up diagnosing her with Shingles and prescribing Vicoden for her pain.  My point for this story is no matter what age you are, new things happen everyday and as a mother we need to keep our eyes open and be aware.

Shingles itself is not contagious, but you can contract Chicken Pox from Shingles.  Shingles presents as an extremely painful, similar to a pins and needles experience, on the surface of the skin in a bumpy, red rash.  Shingles can not be prevented and only surfaces in people that have previously had Chicken Pox.  It is unclear as to why it presents when it does, but doctors speculate that these may be some of the causes:  depression, lowered resistances, and sickness.  If you have Shingles and believe you have not had Chicken Pox; you probably just don't know you have had Chicken Pox.  There are extremely light cases reported that only feel like flu symptoms and one or two pox.

There is no need to panic if you have Shingles.  You need to visit your doctor and most times they will provide you with pain medication and tell you to rest.  Shingles is more dangerous if it presents on the face.  If there are small children in your family that have not already experienced Chicken Pox or have not had a Chicken Pox vaccination you need to have your child get a vaccination as soon as Shingles is diagnosed to prevent a Chicken Pox breakout.  Shingles has no known cure and usually goes away with in two months.  Using ice packs or hot compresses can help relieve the pain.  Keep the wound covered and sterile.  There is usually leaking or discharge from the wound.  Having Shingles is a painful experience, because it attacks nerve endings near the surface of your skin.  Shingles can resurface at anytime, unlike Chicken Pox that you only get once.

Please be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect Shingles.  You need to make sure your case of Shingles is just the average case and not a more dangerous situation.


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