One of the common questions asked by people suffering from shingles is, “Why does shingles last for such a long time?” This condition can be caused by a number of causes, ranging from the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is most commonly associated with shingles in adults, to bacteria, fungi and viruses. In cases where VZV or other virus infections are not involved, the condition can also be caused by stress and fatigue. Regardless of the cause, the question remains: “How will I know when my shingles have gone away?”
The answer, fortunately, is not as complicated. The first few days after developing shingles are the most dangerous because they provide the virus with the longest incubation period. During this period, the symptoms of the condition may not appear until several weeks or even months later, which can make the difference between being unaware of the condition and experiencing serious complications.
Most symptoms of shingles will appear on the face, including pain, itching and burning sensations. Occasionally, blisters may also develop and these should not be ignored. However, the key to preventing complications from developing is to treat the condition early on – that is, the earlier the symptoms are detected, the greater the chance that the pain will abate and that the blisters will clear up on their own.
If the condition is recognized early on, the person’s chances of avoiding complications from developing are likely to be much higher than if the condition was left untreated for a long time. Some people do not recognize that they are developing shingles until the pain becomes too much to bear and they find themselves in the hospital bed. In the early stages, however, the pain caused by shingles tends to be so mild that the person is able to move around quite freely.
The reason why shingles is so painful is that it is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This virus is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, but it is only activated when the body is stressed. This usually occurs during a person’s immune system has been weakened by various conditions including illness or injury. When the body is stressed, it produces the chemicals that help the virus activates. As the condition worsens, more chemicals are produced, until the body is unable to fight off the virus any longer.
So, why does shingles last for a long time? The pain that is associated with shingles is actually caused by nerves that are stimulated, along with pain sensors, in the skin surrounding the area of the virus. Because these nerves and pain sensors are located on the outside of the skin, they are not readily felt. Yet, the nerves are very sensitive. They feel the tingle (or itching, like it is called) in the skin and they send signals to the brain. The brain then recognizes the itchiness and decides that it wants to stop the nerve from sending the signal.
This is why the pain of shingles is so intense. The nerves are being interrupted and sent false signals, which is why the pain can last for such a long time. The pain is also real, because the brain continues to think that there is an issue with the skin and decides to send the signal again. Sometimes, the signals come and go quickly, especially if the person is in bed, but other times, they may take longer. The pain can be quite severe at times, although it usually gets better as the day goes on.
It is possible that some people will never experience shingles, or only one episode of shingles. This is also true of those people who have had the virus for a long time and have recovered fully. In most cases, the symptoms will disappear just as quickly as they started. If you are one of the rare individuals that experiences shingles, the best thing to do is not to stress out about it and let it run its course. There is plenty of pain medication and anti-viral medication available to give you pain relief and to limit the length of the virus.