Shingles is a viral infection that targets the nerves. While it is the same family as the chickenpox virus, shingles is incredibly painful, causing shooting, burning pain, itching, and/or tingling. At the same time, it causes the typical chickenpox blisters and rashes.
Most people have had chickenpox as a child. The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes chickenpox and it is also the one that causes shingles. After you recover from this common childhood illness, the virus remains alive inside your body, although in a dormant state. It sleeps within your nerve cells. Usually, it is fully inactive, which means that you are completely unaware of it.
The vast majority of adults have VZV but never go on to develop shingles. In around 30% of people, however, the virus will reactivate. Instead of causing chickenpox again, it causes shingles. Scientists don’t really know why that happens.
What Is the Duration of Shingles?
If you try to find out what is the duration of shingles, you will find the answer quite vague, being between three and five weeks. Instead of asking ‘what is the duration of shingles’, therefore, you should learn to understand the pattern of the disease:
- It starts with tingling and burning pain, sometimes with itching or numbness on just one side.
- Between one and five days later, you will notice a red rash.
- The rash develops into blisters.
- After seven to 10 days, the blisters will have already dried and crusted.
- Several weeks later, the scabs will be gone.
Shingles, like chickenpox, usually only happen once. However, it can happen more often. A bigger problem is that it can have longer lasting consequences as well.
Long-Lasting Consequences of Shingles:
Once you are free of the shingles rash, you may still experience post-herpetic neuralgia, or PHN. This means that, where the rash was located, some pain will remain. Sometimes, this is the worst part of shingles and it can last for a very long time. The older the age of the person with shingles, the more likely it will be that the patient will develop PHN. The pain, meanwhile, can lead to weight loss, sleeplessness, anxiety, and depression. It is life-limiting and significantly reduces quality of life, making things like eating, cooking, dressing, and other common activities almost impossible to do.
Luckily, PHN can be treated to a certain degree. Steroids are often prescribed to make the condition more manageable and reduce how long it lasts. Antidepressants, analgesics, and anti-convulsants can also be prescri bed. Usually, the condition does improve eventually, but this can take a long time.
There are some other potential complications associated with shingles. Infections in the blisters, for instance, are quite common. Some may also leave some scars. It is very important to not scratch or pop the blisters, and most physicians will prescribe antibiotics to help.
If blisters have appeared on the face, then it is important to seek medical attention straight away. If they are near the eye, the damage can become permanent and may result into blindness. Additionally, in rare cases, it can lead to facial paralysis (sometimes temporary), hearing loss, or encephalitis.