Shingles is a painful condition caused by varicella zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chicken pox. After an attack of chickenpox the virus stays dormant in the nerve roots, and gets activated again later in life without giving any warning. The reactivated virus produces symptoms on the skin innervated by particular nerve where it had stayed in dormancy.
Low immune level and stress are some of the triggers. It is more common in people above the age of 50. However, shingles can occur in younger age too. Shingles passes through following phase; severe pain, rash, tiny fluid filled blisters which later on break open and form scabs.Shingles usually develop on chest, back, face, neck, thighs and sometimes around the eyes.
The blisters appear on a belt like pattern along the course of nerve. The lesions generally develop on one side, even in case of neck region. The rash and blisters disappear on their own within a week time; however, sometime the neuralgic pain persists more than three months. Use of anti viral drugs will help to reduce the intensity and shorten the suffering.
Symptoms Of Shingles On Neck
Varicella zoster virus affects on one side of the body. Only one nerve is affected and the symptoms are manifested along the course of nerve that supplies particular skin area.In case of shingles on neck the nerve originating from spine which supplies the neck skin is affected by the virus.
In the beginning patient complains of pain in neck region along the course of nerve affected. It is one sided pain. Pain can be mild or severe. It is often burning, sharp and constant pain or sometimes intermittent. The affected area of neck is tender to touch. Patient even cannot bear the draught of air or wear collared shirt due to pain.
During this period patient may feel tired and sometimes he may suffer from headache and mild raised body temperature. In a way he feels unwell for few days.
Within 2 to 3 days after pain, there is sudden appearance of rash on neck with tiny fluid filled blisters. There are cluster of blisters which develop in a linear pattern. Blisters remain for seven to ten days after which they break and form scabs. Scars may form once the scabs slough off.
The lymph nodes in neck area may be swollen and hard. Once the blisters subside, lymph nodes too will reduce in size. Neuralgic pain along the course of nerve may persist even after the blisters disappear. This may remain for one month or even for years.
Treatment Options For Shingles On Neck
Shingles is a very painful condition. The main aim of management of shingles is to provide relief from pain and prevent post herpetic neuralgia. Certain general measures that you can do at home are; wear loose fitting clothes, apply ice on the lesions or keep a wet cool towel on neck area to reduce discomfort and pain. If the lesions are itchy, apply emollients.
To reduce pain, doctors often prescribe painkillers and anti inflammatory medications. Anti viral drugs are useful to shorten the course of shingles on neck as well as reduce the discomforting pain. Anti viral drugs work best when they are taken within first 3 days once the shingle pain in neck begins. Anti viral ointment are also available and they can be applied over the lesion.
Avoid popping the blisters as this may extend the healing period and lead to scarring.
Sometimes when patient complains of unbearable pain, anti depressant are helpful even though the person is not suffering from depression. Anticonvulsant medicines are often prescribed in patients suffering from post herpetic neuralgia.