Chickenpox used to be one of the diseases that every kid got. Just as winter was turning into spring, kids would start breaking out with an itchy rash every year. Red spots would appear, develop into blisters, and then break open and scab over. The sick children would sleep a lot and run fevers. Headaches were common. The itching was the worst for most children, and their moms would make them soak in oatmeal baths to ease the itching and soothe the skin. Then most of them would get better.
But every year, a few would die, usually babies or immunocompromised people, but some healthy people as well, both adults and children. There were serious complications to chickenpox, such as pneumonia and encephalitis, a brain infection, skin and blood infections, and residual neurological problems because of brain infections.
Very few people die now or develop neurological symptoms since the development of a chickenpox vaccine. In fact, the majority of chickenpox cases now are in children whose parents would not let them be vaccinated and in those vulnerable people around them.
There are still a large number of people who have a history of chickenpox in their past and may develop a skin complication when the virus reactivates later in life.
So what’s the difference between chicken pox and shingles?
Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by a virus called Varicella zoster (VZV). The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the infected individual. You can also pick it up by breathing air very close to the patient or from things that have been contaminated by the fluid within the blisters. It generally lasts about a week.
When the infection resolves, the person feels better and forgets about the illness. The virus, though, is still in the body. Once you acquire VSV, you’ve got it for life. The virus retreats along the nerves to the ganglia, collections of neuron bodies, the nerve roots. There it remains, quietly waiting, dormant – until some trigger causes it to erupt again to the skin.
What the exact cause for the VSV to travel back along the axons is not clear. But certain factors make its reappearance more likely. Age is one. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop shingles. Women get it more often than men and whites more often than other races.
Most researchers feel that the reactivation of the virus is due to decreases in the immune system’s strength. This can be caused by age, chronic disease, chemotherapy, or auto-immune diseases such as lupus. And some scientists think the recurrence of VSV is due to stress, either physical or emotional.
Whatever triggers it, the virus travels back along with one of the nerves and infects the skin again. A rash develops, a group of blisters that can be both itchy and extremely painful. It usually occurs on the chest or abdomen in a dermatome pattern and only on one side of the body. This is because it usually only involves one or two nerves when it recurs. However, it can affect any part of the body, from the scalp to the feet. It is particularly concerning when it occurs around an eye.
The itching and pain usually start before the rash by a few days. Fever, headache, malaise, and light sensitivity may also be present. This aftermath of chickenpox also has complications. The pain of the rash might not go away. The eyes may be severely damaged if infected. As in chickenpox, an infection of the brain called encephalitis can occur. And the rash can develop a bacterial infection like Staph, making things considerably worse.
The rash is contagious. If someone who has not had chickenpox or the vaccine for chickenpox comes into contact with the fluid in the blisters, that person probably will develop chickenpox. There are specific treatments for the recurrence of the virus. It would be best to see your doctor as soon as you realize what is happening to you. There are anti-viral medicines that your doctor can prescribe that will help.
But there is also a shingles cream that you can use. There are several brands, but the most effective shingles cream is a homeopathic medication created from potent natural components. As it fights infection, the healing ingredients in the cream relieve pain and inflammation.
Healing of infected or inflamed skin starts with the first application. A shingles cream with considerable healing power activates the natural curative functions of the skin and strengthens the skin’s barrier.
There is a vaccine to help prevent the recurrence of the virus from occurring at all. You can take your chances. After all, not everyone gets it after chickenpox. But getting the vaccine is the wise thing to do. And if your skin breaks out along your ribs or other parts of your body, call your doctor and get the most effective shingles cream to get relief and start healing right away.