Each week we ask a health question to a medical expert. This week: I have itchy blisters on my upper body, what could it be? Dermatologist Patrick Kemperman: “Ringles is very contagious. Stay away from the wounds.”
What exactly is shingles?
Shingles is a skin condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It often starts with itching or a burning sensation on the skin. After a few days, red pimples and blisters appear, usually around the abdomen or waist. Hence the name ‘shingles’.”
“But it can also appear in other places, for example on the back or in the face. The blisters appear in groups and are on one side of your body. The medical name for shingles is herpes zoster.”
Herpes? Isn’t it a sexually transmitted disease?
“There are different types of herpes viruses. The best known are cold sores and genital herpes. But herpes zoster is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that also causes chicken pox in children. If the chicken pox disappears, the virus can lie dormant for years in until, sometimes decades later, it becomes active and manifests as shingles.”
“Yes. Shingles is very contagious. Through contact with the fluid from the blisters, someone who hasn’t had chickenpox can get chickenpox. So avoid that contact. Touch the blisters as little as possible and wash your hands often.”
In principle, shingles will disappear on its own. After about ten days, the blisters dry up and become crusts.
“In principle, it will go away on its own. After about ten days, the blisters dry up and become scabs. It disappears over time. Sometimes people still suffer from itching and pain afterwards. This is nerve pain: the virus enters the nerve. ends and they send an itch or pain signal to the brain. It can be really crazy.”
Is there anything to be done about it?
Shingles heals spontaneously If necessary the blisters can be treated with zinc oil If there is pain touch the painful area as little as possible In case of pain you can take painkillers such as paracetamol other painkillers or prescribe a relief cream.”
Shingles usually occurs in the elderly or people with low immunity.
“In the case of shingles on the face and in people with a disorder of the immune system, the condition is often treated with antiviral drugs. In case of eye infections, it is advisable to seek advice from the ophthalmologist.”
Shingles usually occurs in the elderly or people with a lower resistance. Figures from the RIVM show that in 2015 around five out of a thousand Dutch people went to the doctor because of shingles. Some get so sick that they end up in the hospital. Annually there are about 375 in the Netherlands, mostly people aged fifty or older.”
“Indeed, there are vaccines that reduce or even prevent the risk of getting shingles. You can choose them from the age of fifty. This has advantages and disadvantages: with vaccination the complaints can be less severe and the risk of long-term pain is considerable less But they are not included in the National Immunization Program, so they are usually not reimbursed. Consult your doctor or general practitioner or a vaccination center about whether the vaccine is suitable for you.
Patrick Kemperman is a dermatologist at Amsterdam UMC and Dijklander Hospital.
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