Shingles On Leg

Some Things You Should Know About Having Shingles on the Leg

Although not as common as having outbreaks on the torso or face, outbreaks of shingles on the leg do happen as well. These sometimes reoccurring breakouts are not easy to treat, and although a lucky few may experience little or no pain, the vast majority of people experience intense itching, numbness, and knife-like stabbing near the infected area.

What Causes Shingles?

Shingles on the leg, face, and torso are all caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus strain that causes chicken pox. If you have never had chicken pox, then you are not at risk for contracting an unpleasant case of shingles.

For people that have had chicken pox however, the story is slightly different. After chicken pox heals, the virus lays dormant in nerve cells next to the spinal cord. The virus may lay inactive for decades before reactivating again in the form of shingles. When the virus is active it travels along the nerve fibers to the skin, where it forms a rash, or outbreak.

Who Is at Risk for Shingles?

Although it generally affects people over the age of 60, anyone that has had chicken pox is potentially a candidate for shingles. People with lowered immunities due to HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, depression, high stress, and even a bad sunburn or a cold have heightened chances of getting shingles.

One third of children that were born with chicken pox or developed it very quickly after birth will contract shingles before their 5th birthday. These newborns generally get chicken pox due to their mother contracting the virus 5 – 21 days prior to giving birth. Although this is a sad statistic, it should be noted that generally after contracting shingles once, a healthy individual will develop a strong immunity to it, negating further outbreaks.

How Do I Know If This Rash Is Shingles?

It is generally very easy to spot shingles. On the leg, or any other part of the body you will develop blisters that will fill with pus and eventually scab over. Incredible pain may be experienced, as well as numbness. In some cases of facial shingles, hearing loss in one ear was reported.

If you’ve seen a recent outbreak of chicken pox on a person, then you know what to look for. The two outbreaks are very similar in appearance, although shingles generally form in a band shape along one area of the body, and not all across the skin’s surface as with chicken pox.

Can I Catch Shingles or Pass It On?

People cannot spread shingles to other people. However, a person with shingles can pass the varicella zoster virus on to someone that has never had chicken pox, thus infecting them that way. Once the blisters scab and dry up, the virus can no longer be passed, so no extra precautions need to be taken.

Basic sanitary precautions involve thoroughly washing your hands with a disinfectant soap after touching an infection site. This will help stop the spread of the virus for people that have not yet contracted chicken pox.

Are There Any Treatments Available?

As with all ailments, it is very important that you speak to your physician as soon as possible. Depending on your age and your immunity levels, your doctor will most likely prescribe an oral antiviral medication and topical antibiotic ointment to help with the painful side effects.

In addition to this, you may want to speak to your doctor about a vaccine for shingles. Although it will not prevent reactivation of the virus, it will significantly reduce the pain and length of breakouts.