The chickenpox virus (also known as varicella-zoster virus or VZV), is the beginning step for a person to develop shingles later on in life. VZV is an illness that is highly contagious when in the form of chickenpox, but once it heals, it lays dormant in your nerve cells. A lot of times, once you catch the chickenpox, you are immune from it for life, yet there are rare cases where people catch the virus again. So the answer to "Is shingles really just chickenpox again?" is "no".
How are Chickenpox and Shingles Different?
Shingles is different from chickenpox in many ways. First, chickenpox is very contagious, since it is in your respiratory system. This allows the virus to spread through breathing and contact. But when the chickenpox virus is reactivated later on in life, shingles, it is not contagious. When a person who has never had chickenpox comes into contact with a person with shingles, it is very likely that they will develop the chickenpox virus instead of shingles. With the chickenpox, there can be scars left behind from the blisters, usually if you scratch or pop them, while shingles leaves no scars after healing. But once shingles blisters and rashes disappear, it is possible for the areas to still be painful. If it lasts for a long period of time, months or years, it is called Postherpetic Neuralgia .
How are Chickenpox and Shingles the Same?
Chickenpox and shingles have similar symptoms , such as rashes and blisters. The chickenpox virus is known for forming little itchy blisters all over the body. The shingles illness isn't contagious like the chickenpox, so to determine where the rashes and blisters will arrive depends on your symptoms. You usually feel a burning, itching or tingling sensation in different areas of the skin. These are the areas where the shingles rashes will normally appear. Both the chickenpox and shingles are very uncomfortable physically and mentally. The rashes can hurt or itch and they are very ugly to look at.
Are Shingles and Chickenpox Developed the Same Way?
Since the chickenpox virus is very contagious, most contract it through exposure to someone who has it. The shingles virus is contracted in individuals who have already had the chickenpox virus, so if someone has shingles, it is impossible to catch it. Only the chickenpox can be caught from someone who has shingles, since the chickenpox virus is active within the person with shingles. Age and stress play a large role in the process of developing shingles after chickenpox. The older you get, the weaker your immune system becomes, so it is a potential threat. Stress, depression and other personality abnormalities are players in the development of shingles after chickenpox. The majority of those who have shingles are 80 and over, and women make up 60% of that population.
Who is at Risk for Shingles
Men and women are equally vulnerable, but since most of the people who are infected with the virus are over 80, women make up majority of the percentage at 60%. Women who are pregnant should do all they can to stay away from those who are or who have been infected with VZV. If a woman catches the chickenpox virus three weeks or soon before birth, the baby is at risk of being born with the chickenpox or developing it a few days later. Those who have immune system deficiencies caused by diseases like AIDS, HIV and diabetes are also at high risk. Cancerous individuals who receive chemotherapy are too at high risk.
Chickenpox and Shingles
Though the two come from the same virus, they are two different illnesses. After having the chickenpox, you are at risk at getting shingles later on in life. It is very important to keep your immune system boosted, to help fight against infections such as shingles.