Chickenpox and varicella zoster shingles
Chickenpox infection is caused by a virus and usually appears about 10 to 20 days after exposure to that virus and can last for five or ten days. Mainly occurring in children, it can happen in adults when it can be incredibly unpleasant.
It is associated with a telltale rash and also fever, loss of appetite, headache, tiredness and feeling unwell. The rash is itchy. We can diagnose Chickenpox by observing raised, pink or red bumps which are called papules that break out sequentially over several days. They become vehicles, in other words, fluid-filled blisters which then break and leak and in the last stages this crust over and cover with broken blisters and take several more days to heal.
New bumps will continue to appear, and all three stages of chickenpox can be present the bumps, the blisters, and the scalp lesions all at the same time. While you have got chickenpox, you can infect other people with a virus for two days before your rash even appears and then you remain contagious until all the spots have crusted over and have stopped leaking.
If you are a child or an adult with chickenpox consult your doctor online or by phone, ask the doctor if they would like you to come along to the practice or whether they would prefer to give the information online or on the phone. They want to avoid you waiting in a waiting room with other people and possibly infecting others.
Very, very rarely chickenpox rash can spread to one or both eyes. You must let your doctor know if you feel your eyes are involved so that they can arrange for an ophthalmologist to see you.
If you feel systemically unwell with the chickenpox and get dizziness, disorientation, heart rate up, shortness of breath, tremors, fever, vomiting or a cough that is an urgent reason to see the doctor but still ring first to warn them that you are coming.
The chickenpox virus is called the varicella-zoster virus and is highly contagious and spreads rapidly by direct contact either with the rash or droplets dispersed from your body by coughing or sneezing.
You are at risk of getting chickenpox if you have not been vaccinated, if you have not had it or if you work in an environment where there is a high risk such as a school or childcare facility or you have any children in the family.
If you already had chickenpox or been vaccinated, you are highly likely to be immune to chickenpox. However, if you have been vaccinated and you still get chickenpox you are likely to get it in a much milder form with either no blisters or fewer blisters and probably no fever.
People experience chickenpox as a mild but unpleasant disease. However, it can be serious particularly in adults and can lead to complications in high-risk people. Complications are from bacterial infection of the skin, dehydration because of malaise, developing secondary pneumonia, or encephalitis and even getting a toxic shock syndrome. People most at risk of complications of chickenpox include newborns and infants whose mothers have never been vaccinated or had chickenpox, adults who have never being vaccinated or have had chickenpox, pregnant women who have never had chickenpox. And it also includes people whose immune systems are impaired either by medication because they are on chemotherapy for cancer or another disease or HIV.
Individuals who are taking steroid medications orally for other diseases may be more at risk and people who take any other drugs that suppress their immune system are more at risk of getting complications.
Chickenpox in pregnancy is a particular danger area as chickenpox early in the pregnancy which can result in problems for the newborn, for instance, low birth rate and even defects. The greatest threat though to the baby is just before birth it due where it can cause an infection in the newborn of chickenpox.
Chickenpox and shingles
Chickenpox and shingles are the same virus, varicella zoster. If you had chickenpox, you are at risk of developing later varicella zoster shingles.
After a chickenpox infection, the varicella zoster virus often remains in the nerve cells, and many, many years then the virus can reactivate as shingles which are a little band of itchy, red, painful blisters in the distribution of what is called a dermatome which is a distribution of the nerve.
Varicella zoster shingles are more likely to re-appear in older adults and in people who have got weak immune systems as listed above. Shingles are unpleasant and have its complications such as scarring, postherpetic neuralgia, and if it affects the eye, then visual disturbance or blindness can ensue.