In the past ten years there has been an increase in cases of herpes zoster throughout Italy.
This skin disease, also known as shingles, is a viral disease. It is characterized by small, painful blisters on the surface of the skin. At-risk groups include people who have already had chickenpox. The South Tyrol Institute of General Medicine and Public Health provides information on the importance of the shingles vaccine.
Each year about 150,000 people in Italy contract shingles. Here in South Tyrol, every fourth person will have shingles sooner or later,” warns Giuliano Piccoliori, scientific director of the Institute of General Medicine and Public Health in Busen.
“As a family physician, I have recently noticed a greater severity of the physical effects of shingles. This is especially true for the most terrifying finding – the so-called post-herpetic neuralgia. This is the intense pain after shingles has occurred. It is similar to that caused by a burn, sometimes stinging. This has something to do with neuritis: this is affected by reactivation of the varicella virus,” explains Dr. picoliore; This type of pain occurs in about a quarter of cases. It can last a few weeks or months, sometimes years, if not a lifetime.
Chickenpox “while sleeping” causes shingles
First of all, it should be clarified that no one can be directly infected with shingles. Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella (chickenpox) virus.
This virus “sleeps”, so to speak, for years – and sometimes a lifetime – in the nerve ganglia. Rarely, patients with shingles transmit chickenpox to people who have never had varicella or who have not been vaccinated. Dr. confirms. Giuliano Picoliore, General Practitioner and Sprengel Hygiene Expert in Val Gardena.
The etymology of the word “herpes zoster” describes the main symptoms of this disease: herpes means “creeping damage” in the ancient Greek language, while zoster means “belt”.
The shape of the rash is also the cause of the word “shingles”: clusters of nodules and blisters are arranged like a belt on the reddish skin (hence the term “rose”). The most obvious symptom of shingles is the appearance of itchy blisters on the skin. A characteristic of the rash is that it affects only one side of the body. If the blisters – and at least the skin lesions – also affect the other half of the body, it is usually not herpes zoster. In areas of the body affected by the rash, the pain is manifested by severe burning and itching. Sometimes there is also a fever,” explains Dr. Picoliore.
“Complications can occur, such as zoster oticus, which affects the ear and can lead to deafness, and zoster ophthalmicus, which affects the eye and can lead to blindness in the worst cases,” confirms Piccoliori. Both of these developments usually require hospitalization and immediate treatment. In addition, there is a frightening post-herpetic neuritis, which is a chronic and extremely painful inflammation of the affected nerve. It can be very debilitating and very difficult to treat.
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