If you have had Covid-19, be aware of localized and unexplained pain (may have shingles)
If you have been infected in the last few months, experts warn: be alert for possible signs of this disease.
If you have ever been infected with Covid-19, you should be aware of the possible symptoms of shingles. The pathology can be triggered by the coronavirus responsible for the infection, concludes a study published May 5, 2022 at the Infectious Diseases Society of America Open Forum on Infectious Diseases. Results are based on clinical records that contain medical claims, prescription medications, and outpatient lab results data.
The research looked at adults over the age of 50 (using information from two large databases collected in the United States) and compared those infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus to those uninfected , taking into account various risk factors for herpes zoster, a condition better known as shingles.
The main results reveal that those who contracted Covid-19 were 15% more likely to develop the disease than people who had never been infected. The risk of developing shingles was considered high for six months after being diagnosed with the virus.
The finding holds true even for people who had milder or asymptomatic forms of coronavirus infection. However, the probability of contracting this infection is all the greater as the symptoms of Covid-19 have been more severe.
What is the area?
It is a viral infection that occurs when the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, which remains dormant in the body after the initial infection. It is a disease that usually only appears in people who have had chickenpox in the past, and often decades after the patient’s initial exposure to the virus.
“Although it is usually a self-limiting rash, it can be more severe and associated with a lot of pain, which can last for weeks or even months,” says Ana Teresa Boquinhas, an internal medicine specialist at the CUF Tejo, at NiT.
According to the doctor, the symptoms begin with seemingly inexplicable pain limited to one area of the body, i.e. along the dermatome – an area of the skin where all the sensory nerves come from a single nerve root – followed by two to three days for an eruption. “Physical findings include bubbles, with clear liquid, clustered in a red base. They are usually very painful. Fever may also appear, especially if the lesions are extensive,” he explains.
The spread mainly occurs in people with weakened immune systems. The most common complication is pain that persists for more than four weeks in the affected areas, after the skin lesions have healed.
Injuries can also affect the eyes. In these cases, the person must be seen by an ophthalmologist, in order to detect the changes early and to avoid serious ocular sequelae. The diagnosis of this condition, according to the health professional, is essentially made by the clinical presentation.
Although it usually results from an inability of the immune system to contain the latent replication of the varicella virus, other factors contribute to the development of shingles – exposure to sunlight, physical trauma, certain medications, other infections and stress. . Teresa Boquinhas points out that “associated diseases that lead to low immunity, such as HIV, must be excluded”.
There is no cure for the area, but there is a vaccine to prevent it.
The internal medicine specialist confirms to the NiT that “there are drugs, including antivirals, which have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of active diseases and in the prevention of associated pain”. However, the diagnosis must be made quickly, because the drugs “should preferably be administered within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms”, said the doctor. And other drug interventions can also be used to control pain using corticosteroids, analgesics, and antidepressants.
A vaccine recently arrived in Portugal specifically designed to overcome this decline in immune function and help protect people as they age. It is administered intramuscularly in two doses to adults aged 18 years and over.
This is the first shingles inoculation to combine a non-live antigen with an adjuvant specifically designed to activate a robust and targeted immune response against the varicella zoster virus, or VZV. In a few words, Teresa Boquinhas explains that: “it is indicated for the prevention of shingles and associated neuralgic pain, in adults aged 50 and over”.
This is a sign of hope, since: “almost all adults over the age of 50 have this virus latent in their body. The natural age-related decline of the immune system can allow the virus to reactivate, causing shingles. Those with weakened or compromised immune systems are also more likely to develop the disease.