Shingles: Symptoms and effects of virus
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Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that leads to chickenpox. People who have had chickenpox can then develop shingles. While recovering from chickenpox, the virus enters your nervous system and lies “dormant” for years.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptom is the rash.
It lists signs as: “Localised burning, tingling, itching, prickling pain that starts days to weeks before the rash appears.
“The pain varies by person but can be constant or come and go.
“Days after these symptoms appear, a group of fluid-filled blisters appears on a red, inflamed base of skin; the blisters typically crust over in a week.
“The rash may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, or headache.”
However, a less common symptom the clinic describes as “strange” is having double vision.
It advises you “call your doctor right away” if you experience this, alongside other unusual symptoms such as vertigo, buzzing in your ears, rapid onset weakness, face droop or confusion.
And the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says double vision could cause “severe problems”.
“When shingles affects the eye, you are at risk for more severe problems,” it says.
“These include glaucoma, cataracts, double vision and scarring of the eyelid or cornea.”
Other ways shingles can affect the eyes include:
- A rash on both your upper and lower eyelids
- Redness, burning, and oozing on the inside of your eyelids and white part of your eye
- Dry eye
- Risk of bacterial eye infections
- Blurry vision and being extra sensitive to bright light
- Pain, swelling, and redness inside your eye
- Swelling of the optic nerve behind your eye
- A breakdown of the surface of the cornea.
Treatments it recommends are:
- Placing cool, moist compresses over your closed eyes for relief
- Taking certain medicines to help reduce redness, relieve pain, and treat the virus
- Using eye drops to fight infection or moisten your eyes.
However, if the shingles has caused double vision, glaucoma, cataracts, or eye scarring, “other treatments” are needed.
The AAO says: “Your ophthalmologist will discuss surgery or other types of medicine if they are recommended.”
To reduce your risk of getting shingles in the first place, a vaccine is available on the NHS for people in their 70s.
This will also make the symptoms milder if you do get shingles.
In most cases of shingles the rash clears up on its own after four weeks.
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