What causes shingles? Shingles is generally caused by reactivating the same varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox, though there are other potential causes as well. Symptoms and signs of shingles usually occur one-to-two weeks after the initial contact with the virus. Shingles symptoms and effects include burning, itching, scratching, one-sided stinging pain, body aches, nausea, and fever. Since shingles generally lasts for about two to seven days after the initial exposure to the virus, it can be difficult to diagnose in some individuals. However, once you have been exposed to shingles, your medical professional will perform a thorough medical examination to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
The initial symptoms of shingles typically involve pain, itchiness, and/or redness in the area where the virus initially entered. These initial symptoms can last anywhere from one to several days – sometimes even weeks – after being exposed to the virus. This period of time, known as post-viral shingles, is usually followed by mild to moderate burning and/or itching around the area where the shingles developed. If the virus did not enter through the skin, there would be no uncomfortable sensations involved, as there is if the virus enters the nerves.
One of the symptoms of shingles – the pain and other physical reactions associated with it – can be attributed to postherpetic neuralgia. This condition occurs when a person has had previous exposure to the herpes simplex virus (HSV), and the nerves responsible for pain and other sensitive body responses are scarred from the HSV. Because of this condition, those who have had exposure to the virus in the past are more susceptible to experiencing painful and itchy symptoms now. If you think that you have experienced this after having exposure to herpes, you should immediately see a doctor. A prompt medical evaluation will help you determine whether or not you are suffering from postherpetic neuralgia.
If the virus stays in the nerves and remains dormant, there will be no symptoms at all. If the virus enters the nerves, symptoms may appear much later, mostly after the virus enters the body through insect bites, cuts, or injections. In rare cases, a separate infection might trigger the symptoms of shingles, such as meningitis or encephalitis. Other conditions might lead to the appearance of the herpes simplex virus, including diabetes. If the infection occurs in other parts of your body besides the nose, the nerves responsible for facial movements can also become infected.
The symptoms of shingles primarily develop on one side of your body. On one side, there are usually pain and itchiness, followed by burning sensations. On the other side, there is a blister-like rash that looks like a chicken skin. However, you might also experience pain and burning sensations in the muscles as well. You may also develop blisters, but they will be smaller and less painful than those on your face. The development of a painful rash around the face is one of the most common symptoms of shingles.
The symptoms of shingles tend to vary according to the area of your body in which you have been infected. Some people develop facial rashes while others experience severe itching and pain in the genital area. The symptoms of postherpetic neuralgia tend to be more severe, including swelling in and around the area of infection, which causes blisters to form. When the blisters burst, you may experience severe pain and discharge from the area of infection. Some of these outbreaks can also be related to sexually transmitted diseases, so it is important to talk with your doctor if you think you have this condition.
If you suffer from symptoms of shingles, your doctor will be able to determine if the outbreaks are being caused by an infection or a reaction to medication or an environmental factor. It takes time for the virus to replicate, so the symptoms of shingles may not appear for up to several weeks. This is why it may take up to three weeks for the virus to cause the outbreaks. However, if you develop symptoms of shingles within a three week time frame, you should consult with your doctor to ensure the condition is not caused by an underlying condition.
Some individuals experience symptoms of shingles in only one or two weeks, while others may suffer from the condition for up to six weeks. The duration of time you will have symptoms depends on the individual characteristics of the virus, as well as the immune system. An individual who is predisposed to developing rashes from certain strains of herpes will likely develop the condition more quickly than someone with a lower immune system. While symptoms will generally disappear after several weeks, some individuals experience reoccurring outbreaks that last longer than six weeks. If you experience reoccurring outbreaks of shingles, speak with your physician to determine whether there is a medical reason for the symptoms you are experiencing.