What is Shingles?
Shingles is the re-emergence of the chickenpox virus, usually many years after the original incidence of chicken pox.
The virus responsible for shingles and chickenpox belongs to a group of viruses called herpesviruses. The group includes the herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores, fever blisters, mononucleosis, genital herpes (a sexually transmitted disease), and Epstein Barr, a virus involved in infectious mononucleosis. Like the shingles-causing virus, many other herpesviruses can take refuge in the nervous system after an individual has suffered an initial infection. These viruses may remain in the body for years, and then travel down nerve cell fibers to cause a renewed infection.
Who is at risk for shingles?
About 10 percent of normal adults can be expected to get shingles during their lifetimes, usually after age 50. The incidence increases with age so that shingles is 10 times more likely to occur in adults over 60 than in children under 20. Most people who get shingles develop immunity to the virus and will not get the disease again; however, shingles may recur in some individuals. Among healthy individuals, temporary depression of the immune system because of stress, cold and even sunburn may be associated with an attack of shingles. If you are immunosuppressed for any reason such as cancer, chemotherapy or HIV you are more likely to get shingles.
How is shingles treated?
Usually shingles can be treated successfully if caught early, within the first 48 hours, with medications such as famcyclovir, acyclovir, or valacyclovir pills. Dr. Jennifer Janiga warns that, in rare cases that are severe, hospitalization may be needed for intravenous treatment.
Is shingles contagious?
Yes, but usually only through skin-to-skin contact. If you have shingles on a large portion of your body, however, it may be secreted from your respiratory tract like the common cold.
What are the consequences of shingles?
Unfortunately, even if caught and treated early, pain can continue for weeks to months after the skin lesions are gone.
Do you evaluate and treat Shingles virus in your Reno/Tahoe office?
Yes. We evaluate and treat patients who think they may be experiencing Shingles. Appointment length varies and depends on severity of condition or other contributing factors, but is usually not more than 15-30 minutes.
For more information, or to set up a consultation with Dr. Jennifer Janiga for your Shingles evaluation in our Reno dermatology office, please send us an email or call 775-398-4600.