Let’s Talk About Shingles! (And I Don’t Mean The Ones On Your Roof!)

What are shingles?

A common childhood viral infection is the culprit of shingles in adults. Varicella-zoster (VZV) is the virus that causes chickenpox during a primary infection when we are younger. With the availability of the VZV vaccine, however, most children are getting vaccinated {at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years} and thus never have chickenpox {the primary infection}.

As adults, Herpes zoster, or shingles, occurs due to a reactivation of VZV that has been hanging around in our bodies since we had the primary infection in our childhood. I, for example, had chickenpox at age 16 and recently developed shingles at age 45! VZV lays in wait patiently in our sensory ganglia with the potential to develop into shingles at a later time. Sensory ganglia are structures that allow the central nervous system to receive sensory information, or sensations. Because the sensory ganglia are involved, shingles can be very painful and/or have tingling and itching. These symptoms may also start before the actual rash appears. I had all three!

Shingles are small, blister-like lesions in a rash-type pattern that occur only one side of the body {on the right or left side of the body and do not cross the midline of the body} along a dermatome. {Click here for more information on dermatomes and here for examples of the shingles rash}. Mine were on the right side of my body along dermatome C5 near my collar bone. The dermatomes involving the chest, abdomen and back are the most commonly affected areas. Symptoms of headache, fever, nausea and fatigue {i.e. flu-like symptoms} may also occur, but are not as common as the rash and pain. The rash typically lasts from 2-6 weeks; mine lasted about three weeks.

To read the rest of the article written for Houston Moms Blog by Dr. Shannon M. Clark click here!

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