Everything you need to know about shingles – Health

  • 1 What is shingles?

  • Shingles is an infectious pathology consisting of the varicella-zoster virus, called “VZV”. It is a virus of the herpes family. “More than 20% of people over 50 will have shingles,” says Dr. Marc Perrussel, dermatologist and hospital practitioner attached to the Rennes University Hospital.

  • 2 How does it appear?

  • To contract shingles, you must first and necessarily have had a primary infection, in this case chicken pox.

    After chickenpox is cured, “the virus will stay in the sensory ganglia. Over time, if the immunity that controls this virus drops, with age or fatigue for example, the virus will reappear, it will regain the nerve sheath. It is generally people who have had a small chickenpox who will develop shingles, ”explains the practitioner.

    Dr. Perrussel also notes a little more shingles at the end of winter because “people are more tired”.

  • 3 How does it manifest?

  • The affected part of the body is first bright pink and then becomes covered with vesicles grouped in clumps, similar to those of chickenpox. “The eruption is unilateral: it is on the path of a nerve”, explains Dr. Perrussel.

  • 4 Is shingles contagious?

  • “When we say that shingles is not contagious: it’s false, launches Dr. Perrussel straight away. Someone who has shingles will not give it to a nearby person but by contact or airborne, he can transmit the virus to him. In other words; we are not going to give shingles, but the virus. And if the person opposite hasn’t had chickenpox, they will if they catch this virus. “But if the person has already had chickenpox, it will not necessarily have shingles,” says the doctor.

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    A subject with shingles must therefore be particularly vigilant if he is in the presence of babies, immunocompromised people, or pregnant women who have not had chickenpox. Note that “you need close contact to catch the virus”, continues the dermatologist.

  • 5 On which part of the body does shingles appear?

  • Shingles can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most commonly found on the chest. We will then speak of intercostal zona.

    More rarely, it can reach other areas: this is, for example, the case of ophthalmic shingles which will appear on half of the forehead and scalp, on one side of the face (eyelid, eye or nose ). “It is an extremely serious pathology when it affects the facial nerves,” warns Dr. Perrussel.

  • 6 How long does shingles last?

  • First of all, the symptoms will be like “tickling, it can burn, and after 24 hours or 48 hours, little blisters will appear. »

    To treat shingles, the patient will be prescribed Valaciclovir, at the rate of “two tablets three times a day for seven days”, specifies the dermatologist. After fifteen days, the scabs will begin to fall off.

    Note that, “the older you are, the more effective an extremely early treatment, from the first day of the eruption if possible”. To relieve the pain that shingles can cause, “we recommend analgesics such as Doliprane”, continues the dermatologist. Each patient will, in any case, be administered by his doctor, the treatment that will be most suitable for him.

    In most cases, shingles and the pain it causes disappear without sequelae. But, sometimes, it can cause damage to the affected nerve: “Nerve pain can persist for years and its extremely painful. This phenomenon can occur in older subjects,” says the dermatologist.

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  • 7 Getting vaccinated: good or bad idea?

  • There is a vaccine against the varicella-zoster virus “which can be offered to people over 50, whether they have already had chickenpox or not, to reduce the risk of shingles and especially the risk of post-neuralgia pain. -zosteriennes”, indicates the site Vaccination Info Service. This vaccination is recommended for all adults aged 65 to 74 and consists of a single dose, without a booster. “But be careful, it’s a live vaccine. It is not allowed for everyone. It is not, for example, not in immunocompromised subjects. This is why, before being vaccinated, it is absolutely necessary to seek advice from a doctor, to speak to your doctor about it”, insists the professional.

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