Many adults today suffered from chickenpox as children. Despite recovering from this common childhood illness, people can still suffer from complications of this disease later in their lives. Shingles, also known as varicella zoster, is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person recovers from the chickenpox, the virus can still live in his or her nervous system and reactivate itself years later after that person reaches adulthood. While shingles typically is not a life threatening disease, it can still be painful and inconvenient to those it afflicts.
Causes of Shingles
The same virus that causes chickenpox can lie dormant in a person’s nervous system for years. While it is not known precisely why the virus reactivates itself, doctors believe that a number of factors can elevate a person’s risk of developing this condition. These factors include:
• Weakened Immune System: People who are battling an infection like the flu or bronchitis have lowered immune responses to other infections. While their bodies are fighting off the flu or a bad chest cold, they cannot battle an emerging condition like shingles.
• Fatigue or Poor Sleeping Habits: When people neglect their sleep, they weaken their immune systems and put their bodies at risk of developing shingles. Fatigue and a lack of quality sleep have been linked to poor immune responses and the onset of illnesses caused by viruses.
• Age: Shingles commonly afflicts older people, particularly those who are over the age of 70. Older people often suffer from weaker immune systems and are more at risk of contracting viral infections.
Treatment of Shingles
People who suffer from shingles generally are inconvenienced by the pain and itchiness of the rash and develop few, if any, life threatening side effects of the infection. While no cure exists for varicella zoster, doctors can still offer a number of treatment options to patients who are afflicted with this condition. Popular treatment options for shingles today include:
• Antiviral Drugs: These drugs subdue the virus that causes shingles and shortens the time that people are ill with the infection.
• Numbing Patches: The pain from the rash can cause significant discomfort. Doctors often prescribe pain patches for people who suffer from pain that cannot be relieved with over-the-counter pain relief options.
• Analgesic Creams and Sprays: Patients interested in a topical relief option can choose analgesic creams and sprays that can be applied directly to their rashes.
• Antidepressants and Anticonvulsant Medications: Patients who are afflicted with shingles may experience severe nerve pain and anxiety. If they are distressed about their condition and can find little relief with pain patches or over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, their doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or anticonvulsant remedy.
A relatively forgettable experience with childhood chickenpox can invite significant pain and inconvenience later in adulthood. People who had chickenpox as children often still have the virus in their nervous systems. The dormant virus can reactivate itself years later in response to a number of different factors. Poor sleep, weakened immune systems, and aging can all cause shingles to occur. Patients afflicted with this condition have a variety of treatment options, including pain patches, analgesic creams, and antiviral drugs. Most people suffer few life threatening side effects and can recover in a matter of days. Doctors continue to search for a cure for shingles.