Shingles is a disease that's common in older adults and is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that causes the chicken pox in younger children. In fact, if you were exposed to the chicken pox as a child, you have an increased risk of developing shingles.

Basically, when a person contracts the chicken pox, a small amount of the VZ virus will remain in their body. Then, once the patient's immune system is weakened either by aging, stress or an immune system deficiency, the disease may return and attack the nervous system.

To find out more about the Shingles disorder, including how to identify the symptoms of the disease and prevent its spread, read on.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles typically begins with a low grade fever that can last for up to six days. An individual will also experience ongoing fatigue, lethargy, possible headaches, occasional digestive problems, aches, pains and even chills. And though, eventually the person will develop a rash, it is at this stage that the patient or a doctor may misdiagnose the disease as the flu.

However, eventually the patient will start to exhibit small and often painful blisters that run in a straight line along the back. These blisters are the most common symptoms of Shingles.

Shingles Must Be Treated

If left untreated, Shingles may lead to more severe conditions like loss of eyesight, pneumonia, organ malfunction, hearing problems, and issues with the nervous system.

Those at High Risk for Shingles

The people who have the highest risk levels for developing Shingles are those who had chicken pox as children. Primarily, the disease affects those over the age of 50 and is especially prevalent in persons suffering from any other condition that damages the immune system (like AIDS or cancer). Also, it can impact anyone taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Tips for Living With and Treating Shingles

Because Shingles can be contagious after the first blisters develop and until they crust over, patients should be very careful about covering their blisters as a way of preventing the disease from spreading. They should also wash their own clothes, separate from the family laundry.

To alleviate some of the pain and discomfort common to patients suffering from Shingles disease, they should keep affected areas out of the sun and avoid using harsh chemicals like certain soaps or creams on blisters or sores. Patients should also refrain from scratching and irritating any rashes or sores.

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