What is Shingles?

Shingles is also called Herpes Zoster. Those who have had chickenpox can develop shingles later in their lives. The varicella-zoster virus, when it enters our system, first causes chicken pox. Then it enters dormancy and remains in that state for many years. When it becomes active again, it causes shingles.

Shingles causes a painful rash on one side of the body. The rash is made up of groups of small blisters. It usually appears in areas that are connected to the spinal cord by a single nerve root. Left untreated, shingles can last anywhere between two to five weeks.

Shingles can virtually affect anyone who has had chicken pox. But it is more likely to affect older adults and those with weaker immunity. Older adults, especially those who have had a major operation like a transplant, or those undergoing cancer treatment, or those with AIDS are likely to develop shingles.

Shingles is not highly contagious. The virus cannot affect those who already have had chicken pox, because the virus is dormant in their body. Only people who have never developed chickenpox (about 10% of the population) are likely to be affected. Usually, the rash occurs in areas that are covered by clothes, so that offers ample protection.

The recovery period of shingles is most difficult. It is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN affects the nerves and skin, causing a burning sensation that continues long after the rashes and blisters of shingles have disappeared. PHN affects older adults more. Antiviral treatment for shingles may help in some cases to reduce the effects of PHN. PHN can continue for months or even years and is a very debilitating condition.

Also Read: Importance of Herpes Zoster Vaccination for Elderly

Alcohol and Shingles treatment

Shingles treatment usually requires the use of antiviral, oral medication. These drugs are useful for reducing the pain during the duration and the recovery of shingles. Although alcohol warnings are not explicitly mentioned in the product labels of the antiviral drugs used to treat shingles, it is best to avoid alcohol during shingles treatment. Alcohol may reduce the effectiveness of the medications used for treatment.

Antiviral drugs usually have a number of side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, stomach ache, headache, and diarrhea. Some other side effects include tremors, changes in urination and stuttering or slurred speech.

Intake of alcohol during the treatment of shingles can make these side effects more severe. If you work in hazardous fields or in areas where high levels of concentration are needed, you should cut down your alcohol intake during shingles treatment to zero. Alcohol, when combined with antiviral drugs, increases drowsiness and dizziness and makes it very difficult and dangerous for you to work.

Antiviral drugs also numb the pain that shingles patients suffer from. Alcohol reduces the effectiveness of these drugs and the person still feels pain, even after taking medications. Alcohol can also weaken your immune system. Your body will find it more difficult to fight off the virus.

In general, if you have developed shingles and want to recover quickly, do not consume alcohol during the duration of treatment.

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