by Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel BS ES RN
Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same viral organism, varicella zoster. Most of us are exposed to varicella zoster as children and then carry this organism dormant in our nervous systems. Sometimes, as we age, varicella manifests as shingles.
Shingles is normally not life threatening, but it does cause severe pain, numbness and tingling, and a few days after, fluid filled pustules along the nerve tracks, particularly along the patients trunk. Patients have committed suicide over the pain. Some patients also experience the same symptoms most people would have during an active viral infection, fever, malaise, headache, and cold symptoms. The illness also has some latitude. Some people develop the pain without the rash, while others have the terrible oozing rash, without the numbness and tingling beforehand.
As soon as you suspect that you or a loved one have shingles, you should see a physician, because on occasion, they can provide an antiviral which may slow or shorten the course of the illness. It would be important to see the physician as soon as possible. He can also provide good guidance in terms of the best pain medication for you, with whatever other medical issues, you do, or do not have.
It is also important that the shingles infected person stays away from those who are receiving cancer treatment, are a transplant patient of some kind, are pregnant, are very young or very old. It is possible for another person to contract chicken pox from a person with active shingles. Keep in mind that the older you are when you first get chicken pox, that the worse your chicken pox case is likely to be.
There is a preventive immunization for shingles(Zostavax), and most people as they approach sixty, should ask their physician if they may benefit from it. It has also long been noted that those with a blood dyscrasia, are far more prone to developing shingles than anyone else. In fact, in 30 years of practice, 100% of my patients with shingles had a concurrent blood dyscrasia. A blood dyscrasia is any disorder of the blood. Sometimes these patients are resolving leukemia, but many times, they simply have some form of anemia. This is another reason that anyone with anemia should make sure that their physician does an $11. annual hemoglobin and hematocrit test to make sure they are not anemic. If they are, then the detective work of what type, and why needs to be done, because anemia is not innocuous when coupled with other disorders. Those with HIV-AIDs are also at risk.
Most cases of shingles resolve with a complete recovery on the part of the patient but the following possibilities are indeed there. Patients can develop permanent nerve pain and discomfort, eye problems with permanent vision loss, bacterial skin infections, permanent balance problems, permanent hearing loss, or brain infection.
Although most patients with shingles are sixty or older, patients in their thirties can develop the illness also.
Once again, from a survival standpoint, it would be important to have a good working relationship with a physician in order to receive the back up you might require should this be an issue. The best course of action would be to treat any underlying issues or underlying anemia because in a survival situation, it would be difficult to chop wood, relocate animals or do any number of the things which would be necessary in a true emergency, with shingles.
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