The varicella-zoster virus can interfere with basic daily activities. Depending on the severity of the infection, this virus can cause symptoms for more than just a couple of weeks. Even though there are certain treatments for pain, such as ointment for shingles, many people wonder if it will come back.
What Is Viral Latency?
Viral latency occurs when a pathogenic virus lays dormant in the body. Although the virus does not cause active symptoms, it is not entirely gone. After the initial reaction to the infection, the creation of new virus particles effectively ends. Most latent viruses can stay inside the body for an undetermined amount of time.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This can occur in multiple ways, including direct contact or through a dormant virus. Since the varicella-zoster virus also causes chickenpox, those who were infected as a child have the potential to experience other symptoms.
Most people experience the herpes zoster virus because they have experienced chickenpox in the past. Unlike chickenpox, however, it is much more difficult to spread. Although the virus is dormant, it is not considered active. This eliminates the possibility of infecting others once symptoms dissipate.
Herpes zoster can cause neurological complications for those with compromised immune systems. Individuals over sixty are also at risk. The herpes zoster virus typically affects the torso but can cause fever and headaches.
Is There A Vaccine?
The only way to avoid contracting the herpes zoster virus is to receive the vaccine. Many children now receive the vaccine, so they will not experience chickenpox. This can be done at a doctor’s office or clinic. Certain public schools may also provide the option for this particular vaccine.
For those who are over fifty, two doses of the shot are recommended. This creates added protection against chickenpox and the herpes zoster virus. Since older adults may develop severe symptoms from these conditions, the vaccine is vital to avoid additional complications.
One of the most common complications from the herpes zoster virus includes postherpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia can occur in the area where there was an inflamed rash. This type of pain can be debilitating and may last for months after the virus is no longer active. This complication is rare and more likely to happen in those with compromised immune systems or advanced age.
Receiving two doses of the vaccine is over 90% effective in preventing the virus as well as any complications that may stem from it. The vaccine is recommended even to those who have already experienced the effects of the varicella-zoster virus.
Certain individuals, however, may be at risk. Those who have had severe allergic reactions in the past may need to consult with a physician before taking a dose. If an individual currently has the herpes zoster virus, they should seek treatment options instead.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Shingles?
Symptoms of the varicella virus differ depending on the condition. Chickenpox, part of the varicella-zoster virus, will cause severe itchiness. This usually takes the form of red spots and can cover the entire body.
The herpes zoster virus may cause more pain than chickenpox. This condition usually affects adults and primarily presents itself as a severe rash that can create a burning or tingling sensation.
Common symptoms associated with the herpes zoster virus include red patches, fluid-filled blisters, itching, fever, fatigue, muscle weakness, and headache.
Unlike chickenpox, these red patches are usually concentrated in one area. While rashes can form anywhere on the body, they usually appear as a band across one side of the torso. The area may flake or peel and can cause severe pain.
Rashes from this virus generally show up two to three days after the infection is activated. Before experiencing a herpes zoster rash, other symptoms such as chills and muscle aches are likely to occur. The temperature is usually elevated during this time and can account for feelings of chills or profuse sweating.
Severe fatigue usually presents itself in the early stages of the herpes zoster virus but can persist throughout the duration of the condition. During this time, many people experience a decline in productivity and may need to rest more often.
Hydration is key. Adequate fluids will help replenish the body from sweating. Nausea usually subsides after a couple of days but can also deplete the body of electrolytes. Drinking plenty of water is advised.
There are several treatment options available for those who have contracted the herpes zoster virus. Over-the-counter remedies can reduce a variety of symptoms depending on their severity.
Over-the-counter pain relievers often reduce moderate fevers. This can also ease muscle aches and chronic headaches. Taking too many pain relievers can cause potential harm to the liver or kidneys and should be used sparingly.
Ointment for shingles is another option. The best ointment for shingles usually involves natural ingredients that will not cause any stinging sensation. Solutions that use alcohol may further irritate the skin and cause additional pain.
Loose, cotton clothing is recommended. Tight clothing or polyesters, synthetic material can exacerbate skin irritation. By letting the affected area breathe, loose clothing can protect the rash from exposure while still feeling comfortable.
Severe rashes will need medical treatment. A physician can help detect any possible health complications as a result of the virus. Trained medical professionals can also prescribe other forms of treatment, including medication.
A severe rash is excruciating and may cover areas of the face. A rash that comes close to the eyes has the potential to cause blindness. A doctor should examine any swelling near the eyes or ears.
Can You Get The Herpes Zoster Virus Twice?
Most people do not experience symptoms from the herpes zoster virus twice. While it is possible, the odds are extremely low.
A vaccine will drastically reduce the chances of developing symptoms for a second time. If this does occur, a medical professional should be notified. An examination can rule out any other possible conditions or complications.
If symptoms are experienced for a second time, over-the-counter treatment is an option. The best ointment for shingles is one that will hydrate the skin. Most creams and topicals can be used several times for the same results. Symptoms can generally last anywhere from four to eight weeks before a full recovery. During this time, rest, hydration, and treatment are advised.