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Complications with Shingles

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What are some of the complications of Shingles and Herpes Zoster and how is this Condition treated?

Approximately 20% of people who develop shingles suffer continuing pain in the same spot long after the blisters have cleared. This condition is known as Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN).

Shingles can also lead to other complications, including inflammation of the brain known as Encephalitis as well as other neurological problems. If the nerves originating in the brain (cranial nerves) are affected, then sometimes complications can include inflammation or blockage of blood vessels.

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus is a shingles rash on the forehead, cheek, nose and around one eye that could threaten your sight. This type of shingles needs immediate treatment.

Hutchinson’s Sign is when a shingles blister or blisters appear on the tip of the nose. This means that the virus has invaded the nerve in the eye and will cause painful swelling of the eye. This inflammation can cause temporary blindness and vision loss. You should see an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) immediately.

Paralysis in the face is also a possibility. The Ramsay Hunt Syndrome occurs when the shingles spreads to the facial nerve causing intense ear pain. When the shingles virus affects the facial nerve then hearing loss, dizziness and facial paralysis may occur, which is usually temporary but not always. If you experience shingles blisters on your ear, mouth, neck, face or scalp, see your doctor right away.

If shingles blisters are not treated properly, bacterial skin infections can sometimes set in. Scratching the rash may damage the skin and bacteria are introduced from the fingernails. A shingles rash that does not heal may be an indication that a bacterial infection is present.  See your doctor immediately if the rash has worsened or is not healing.

The immune system is a very important factor and shingles can be dangerous in someone with a weakened immune system when a blistery rash known as Disseminated Zoster spreads over a large portion of the body and can reach vital organs like the lungs, central nervous system, liver, pancreas, intestinal tract and brain as well affecting the joints. Widespread infection like this can cause temporary weakness and possibly even cause viral pneumonia or a secondary bacterial infection which can be life-threatening. It is therefore vital to strengthen your immune system.