Health Tip: Understanding Shingles
Caused by the same virus as chickenpox
(HealthDay News)- Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same one that causes chickenpox.
Shingles, characterized by a painful, blistering rash, occurs only in people who have had chickenpox or have had the chickenpox vaccine.
After a person has chickenpox (usually as a child), the virus that causes it stays in the body. In most people, the immune system keeps the virus in check. But in some people as they age and their immune system weakens, the virus re-emerges and causes shingles.
The American Academy of Family Physicians offers additional information about shingles:
- It usually occurs in people aged 50 and older.
- It may affect younger people with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or HIV.
- Shingles pain may last three months or longer.
- Blisters usually crust and fall off after 7 to 10 days.
- Your doctor may opt for a prescription medication including acyclovir (brand name: Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex).
- Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help. Never take aspirin if you have shingles, since this can lead to a rare but dangerous disorder called Reye's syndrome.
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