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Shingles Advice

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Question: I’ve heard that shingles is an adult form of chickenpox. I had chickenpox as a child, surely it can’t come back?

17 September, 2008 – 14:05

Answer: Unfortunately, shingles are caused by the virus herpes zoster, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox and tends to only affect people who have had chickenpox at some point in their lives.

The chickenpox virus lies dormant in a nerve root for up to decades at a time, only to be reactivated when the immune system is weakened by age, disease or unmanaged stress.

It can also develop through contact with somebody, usually a child, who has chickenpox.

As with chickenpox you get that horrible itching again and the crusty spots, but this is usually preceded by severe pain on one side of the body, usually the chest or back.

A few days later this is followed by a skin eruption or rash in the painful area. The rash normally disappears after two or three weeks, sometimes leaving scars where crusts have formed.

However, the initial pain can, which is known as post-herpetic neuralgia, can persist for months afterwards.

Shingles is not necessarily contagious, but if you think you might have contracted it, I strongly recommend you contact your GP.

He or she will probably prescribe a course of Acyclovir or Zovirax to help minimise discomfort and symptoms.

There are a number of natural remedies that can help to alleviate pain and irritation.

For immediate relief apply cool or cold wet dressings to the affected area and avoid tight or itchy fabrics like wool.

Calamine lotion can also be very soothing and can help to dry any residue.

The amino acid lysine applied both topically and as a supplement, has been shown to inhibit herpetic activity and shorten an attack and vitamin C is thought to increase the body’s production of interferon, an infection-fighting protein that promotes healing.

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