Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All the Shingle Ladies!

The word 'shingles' has two meanings -- one is an object, and the other, a disease.

Roof shingles.

Scary shingles.

I'm here today to talk about the shingles you don't want -- scary shingles. Because, you know, I'm a bit of a nerd and an aspiring doctor and I myself am trying to ignore the pain of the skin blisters of shingles right now.

Another name for shingles is 'herpes zoster'. No, not the STD -- that would be herpes simplex. The viruses that cause both diseases belong to the same viral subfamily, though. (I don't know what that's supposed to signify. Oops.) Anyway, interestingly enough, you know what else the shingles virus causes? Chickenpox.

Here's what happens: After you get chickenpox (unless you're one of those weird people who got vaccinated), the virus doesn't completely leave your body -- it hides out in your nerves. I guess if your nerves are a really boring place, the virus decides to become active again and infect your nerve cells. From the nerves, the virus goes on the infect the skin 'supplied' by a spinal nerve, which results in those delightfully attractive blisters.

(From Cure Talk. Click the link for a great informative article on shingles.)

Shingles is not an 'old person's disease'; people of any age can get shingles, though the aged and the immunosuppressed are more susceptible to it. Seeing as how I am neither, well... According to Wikipedia, 'Throughout the world the incidence rate of herpes zoster every year ranges from 1.2 to 3.4 cases per 1,000 healthy individuals'. Don't I feel special.

Before you guys start avoiding me like the plague (though I'll be staying home and willing myself to recover soon so my sem break isn't completely wasted), shingles itself isn't contagious. However, if you haven't had chickenpox or are due for a booster shot of the vaccination, you don't want to be giving me hugs. It's a bit odd -- if you come into contact with the fluid oozing from the blisters of someone with shingles, you get chickenpox. Then again, they are caused by the same virus, so it makes sense.

I had a really bad case of chickenpox when I was little.
I was miserable. Why the heck is this kid so happy?!
(From here.)

So what do you do if you have shingles? A visit to the doctor is required, because you need antiviral pills. (Antibiotics won't do squat, because those combat bacteria, not viruses.) I also got painkillers, vitamin B for my nerves, and a cream for the blisters. According to the doctor, the dosage of antivirals is the same whether you're eight, eighteen, or eighty -- 800 mg every four hours. Which is, as you can imagine, a bit of a pain in the butt. But, well, you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

I hope you found this post informative and weren't too grossed out by the icky pictures. I actually had fun researching shingles and writing about it. (Nerd alert!) Maybe I'll pick a random disease and blog about it every now and then, we'll see. (NERD ALERT!) But for now...

Where my shingle ladies at?!

No comments:

Post a Comment