If you’ve ever had the chickenpox, there is a chance that you could also develop shingles. Along with having had the chickenpox, you’re also at an increased risk of developing shingles if you are over the age of 50 and have a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system can occur as a result of receiving cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, or from other diseases such as HIV and diabetes, as well as from certain medications, such as steroids.
Shingles is the reactivation of the chickenpox virus known as the varicella-zoster virus. When you recover from the chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the roots of the nerves. Shingles is a flare-up of this virus, which will then present itself as a rash. Unlike having the chickenpox, which tend to be itchy, shingles tend to be more on the painful side. If you develop a severe headache or have other flu-like symptoms and become sensitive to light, these may be early indicators of shingles. You may also notice a tingling or burning sensation. It may take a few days before a rash will appear, which is usually located on one side of the body. The rash will initially appear as blisters before turning into scabs.
While there is no cure for the shingles, there are certain types of treatments that can reduce the symptoms associated with shingles and potentially shorten the length of time that you have them. A few of these treatment methods include antiviral medications as well as over-the-counter medications (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen) and topical creams to help relieve pain. If you think you might have shingles, it is important to contact your doctor as soon as possible so you can get treated early in order to prevent complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia, from occurring. 1 in 5 people who have had shingles will develop this complication, which causes lingering pain (often characterized by a burning, tingling, stabbing or electric shock-like sensation) even after the virus has cleared.