Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an episode of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the body and reactivates to cause shingles when the immunity weakens. But shingles is not just a skin disease as commonly thought – its impact can extend far beyond to other parts of the body such as nerves, heart, eyes, and the brain. And unfortunately, ageing adults are particularly vulnerable to this condition and its serious complications.

Since shingles is a viral infection, it must be treated with antiviral medications, along with painkillers and steroids in some cases, which only a doctor can prescribe for you. However, antiviral medicines tend to be most effective when administered within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms. The later the treatment begins, the lower its effectiveness. So, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you notice these early symptoms of shingles!

1. The nerve pain: Shingles can begin with a severe, excruciating nerve pain. Ask anyone who has suffered from shingles, and they will tell you the anguish they went through. Some people who have gone through this agony have compared it to labour pain, post-surgical pain, or electric shocks.

2. The burning blisters: According t6o Dr Rashmi Hegde, Executive Vice President - Medical Affairs, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, India, “Shingles typically manifests as painful blisters. The rash of shingles appears usually on one side of the body: face, abdomen, chest, or back, and lasts for 2-4 weeks. It appears as a cluster of blisters filled with fluid, which later burst and start to crust.”

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3. The rash: But the disease is sly and sometimes does not open its cards completely. In some people, it begins with just the rash. It could at times be mistaken for insect bites or eczema. This may lead to a delayed visit to the doctor. In a few others, the pain may precede the rash.

Sometimes doctors also have been tricked by this pain and have wrongly diagnosed the pain as a heart attack, cholecystitis (inflammation of gallbladder), a slipped disc, or appendicitis!

In some cases of shingles, there are long-term complications. In 10-18%% of people with shingles, the nerve pain can last for months or even years after the rash clears – this condition is known as post-herpetic neuralgia. The risk of post-herpetic neuralgia is higher in people aged 50 years and above. Ageing adults find it particularly difficult because the constant pain interferes with their daily life and their dependency on others grows. The pain can also lead to loss of appetite, troubled sleep, weight loss, and fatigue.

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Unfortunately, there is still a chance of recurrence after an episode of shingles. The comforting belief of "one-time shingles, lifelong immunity" is not true. According to an API-Ipsos 2023 survey, 73% of shingles patients in India believed that they could not get shingles again. However, the virus is capable of reactivating again after the first attack of shingles.

Vaccination is the only known prevention against shingles as of today. Stay protected, stay informed, and do not hesitate to talk to your doctor to know more about shingles prevention.


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2024-05-16T18:39:09Z dg43tfdfdgfd