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Shingles: A Painful and Debilitating Virus that Strikes the Elderly 
 
by Mary M. Alward August 08, 2005

Postherpetic Neuralgia

The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia. It is a condition where shingles pain lasts for weeks, months or even years after the shingles blisters and rash have disappeared. The cause of postherpetic neuralgia is damaged nerve fibers. The nerve fibers continue to send messages to the brain from the skin area that was affected. When shingles damage the nerve endings, they can’t send proper messages to the brain. The brain deciphers these confusing messages as pain.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome is the result of the herpes zoster virus spreading to facial nerves. This causes severe ear pain. Shingles may break out on the face, neck, and scalp, the roof of the mouth, outside the ear, around the mouth or inside the ear canal. If the shingles virus strikes facial nerves, the result can be loss of hearing, facial paralysis and/or dizziness. This is usually temporary but can be permanent. If you have an outbreak of shingles on your face, ear, neck or scalp, see your doctor as soon as possible.

Hutchinson’s Sign

Hutchinson’s Signs is a condition that occurs when shingles breaks out on the end of the nose. It is a definite sign that the herpes zoster virus has penetrated the ophthalmic nerve of the eye. The eye then swells and becomes excruciatingly painful. The invasion of the herpes zoster virus into the ophthalmic nerve can cause vision loss and temporary blindness.

Skin Infection

Shingles are usually extremely itchy. If the sufferer scratches, the skin can be damaged, which can inadvertently introduce a bacterial infection from the fingernails. If shingles blisters and rash is not healing, this could indicate they are infected. If you suspect you have a bacterial infection, or notice that the rash site has worsened, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Infected Internal Organs

When a shingles outbreak occurs the immune system weakens. If you have had an organ transplant or suffer from HIV or cancer, your immune system is not working to its highest potential. This means an outbreak of shingles is dangerous for you, as the herpes zoster virus could spread through your body and strike vital organs. If this happens you are susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection and/or viral pneumonia, which could be fatal if not treated immediately.

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