Infections - Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Chickenpox and Shingles

By S.I. (staff writer) , published on July 11, 2023

Medicine Telehealth Health virus infection

What are Chickenpox and Shingles?

Chickenpox and shingles are two related viral infections caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). While chickenpox primarily affects children, shingles can occur later in life as a result of the reactivation of the dormant virus. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for these conditions is crucial for effective management and prevention.



Causes of Chickenpox and Shingles:

Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Chickenpox is primarily acquired through direct contact with an infected person's respiratory droplets or fluid from the blisters. It is highly contagious, especially during the early stages of the illness. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells and can reactivate later in life, leading to shingles [1].



Symptoms of Chickenpox:

Chickenpox typically starts with a prodromal phase characterized by fever, fatigue, and malaise. Soon after, a characteristic rash develops red, itchy blisters that progress from macules to papules and then vesicles. The rash can appear on the face, trunk, and extremities and may spread throughout the body. In addition to the rash, individuals with chickenpox may experience headaches, sore throats, and loss of appetite.



Symptoms of Shingles:

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, typically begin with pain, tingling, or itching in a specific area of the skin. This is followed by the appearance of a rash that usually occurs in a band or stripe on one side of the body. The rash consists of red, painful blisters that may eventually break open and form crusts. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, and fatigue. Post-herpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles, which causes persistent pain even after the rash has resolved [2].



Treatment of Chickenpox and Shingles:

The treatment approaches for chickenpox and shingles focus on relieving symptoms and preventing complications. Some common strategies include:


  • Symptomatic Relief: Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help reduce fever, pain, and itching associated with chickenpox and shingles.


  • Antiviral Medications: For severe cases or individuals at high risk of complications, antiviral medications such as acyclovir or valacyclovir may be prescribed. These medications can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and prevent complications [3].


  • Topical Treatments: Calamine lotion or antihistamine creams can provide relief from itching caused by the rash.


  • Vaccination: The varicella vaccine is highly effective in preventing chickenpox. Vaccination not only protects individuals from developing chickenpox but also reduces the risk of shingles later in life.


Shingles can be prevented or its severity can be reduced through vaccination. The herpes zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles vaccine, is recommended for individuals aged 50 years and older. The vaccine boosts immunity against the varicella-zoster virus, reducing the risk of shingles and its associated complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia [4].











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