Shingles that suddenly appeared on a hot summer day

 As the sweltering heatwave continues in recent years, the number of patients visiting the hospital for herpes zoster, a typical neuropathic disease, is increasing among the elderly and stressed-out office workers with low immunity.

  According to statistical data, the number of patients treated for shingles in 2019 was 61% more female than male, and patients in their 50s and 60s accounted for 45% of the total number of patients.

  Herpes zoster is a varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox in children aged 2 to 10 years. After getting chickenpox as a child, this virus is dormant in nerve cells, and when the body's immunity is weakened, it resumes activity and spreads around the nerves, causing inflammation.

Causes of herpes zoster

  The varicella-zoster virus, the cause of herpes zoster, is usually infected with the virus in childhood and remains somewhere in the body's nerve cells, causing symptoms when the immune system is weakened. The initial symptoms of shingles are similar to those of a cold, such as headache, fever, and loss of appetite. But after a while, blisters form on the skin and pain develops. Because the varicella-zoster virus spreads along the nerves in our body, the blisters are band-shaped only on one side (left or right) of the spine.

  Shingles itself is painful, but it is dangerous because it can cause neuralgia after treatment, or it can cause various complications such as decreased vision if the site of occurrence is the eyes, ears, or face. As the treatment time is advanced, the risk of complications is reduced, so it is important to visit the hospital as soon as possible. Shingles is usually treated with antiviral drugs. If the pain is severe, an analgesic is administered together.

- Prevention of herpes zoster: Immune management and vaccination

  To prevent herpes zoster, it is necessary to make an effort to manage the immune system on a regular basis, such as eating and sleeping regularly. For effective prevention, shingles vaccination may be considered. The herpes zoster vaccine is a once-in-a-lifetime vaccination for those 50 years of age or older, and has a protective effect of 70% for those in their 50s and 51-64% for those over the age of 60. Even if you get herpes zoster after vaccination, it passes mildly and reduces the possibility of transitioning to neuralgia after shingles by 67%.

  People who have had shingles can also be vaccinated. In particular, if the pain was severe at the first onset of herpes zoster or if the patient experienced postherpetic neuralgia as a complication, vaccination is more necessary. Patients who have already experienced herpes zoster can be vaccinated at least 6 to 12 months after treatment, so they should consult a specialist.

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