What can be the lasting side effect of shingles?
In some cases, the symptoms of shingles are unresponsive to treatment and progress to become long-term problems. Postherpetic neuralgia is a potentially debilitating condition that affects the peripheral nervous system and occurs as a result of a shingles outbreak. It affects approximately 10-15% of those individuals who develop shingles. Symptoms are constant burning pain that is brought on by even the slightest contact or movement. The nerve irritation of postherpetic neuralgia can go on for months or years, long after other signs of shingles have disappeared.
Since this side effect of shingles is so painful and is also resistant to treatment, proper and early treatment of the original shingles outbreak is critical to lessen the chances of such as problem developing. 40-50% of people who experience postherpetic neuralgia don't respond to treatment for the condition. Even so, treatment options do exist and should be tried in an attempt to get relief.
Treatment options for this condition include:
- Topical anaesthetics
- Anticonvulsant medications
- Opiod-based drug therapy
Avoiding this type of neuralgia is the goal when one treats shingles pain. It is one side effect you can do without.
Who is at risk for getting shingles?
The virus that causes the painful condition, shingles, is a crafty one. Consider this: once you've had chicken pox, you can't get them again. But if you're exposed to it a second time, instead of contracting the pox again the virus finds a hiding place in your body and lies dormant. Sometimes it will stay there, harmless, forever. But if it gets just the right trigger, such as extreme emotional stress or some type of immune deficiency, out it comes ... in all it's burning, blistery glory, this time as shingles.
At last count, the approximate number of shingles cases reported annually was around 500,000. And while that number is pretty high, it's all relative since once you've had chicken pox you can't actually catch shingles from someone else. That means if you're around anyone during their outbreak, you can't catch it from them directly. But since anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for getting the herpes zoster virus and associated shingles symptoms, you CAN get shingles yourself if you have been re-exposed to the varicella virus.
While shingles is most common in people over 60 years of age, the virus is considered contagious to children as well as adults who have not had chicken pox before. Confusing, yes. But it makes sense if you keep in mind that whether or not you've had chicken pox is the key.
What is neuralgia?
Neuralgia is defined as severe, sharp jabs of pain, or a constant burning sensation. It is a condition of the nervous system, affecting a specific peripheral nerve (the nerves extending out from your spinal cord that control and innervate all other parts of your body) and the area of the body that nerve serves. Sometimes the cause of this type of nerve pain is unknown, but one known culprit is the herpes zoster virus, or shingles.
While typical neuralgia symptoms usually come and go, shingles pain can be quite debilitating and long lasting. Symptoms of shingles tend to be:
- Constant, burning and unrelenting
- Aggravated by any type of pressure or motion
- Long lasting -- sometimes for weeks, months or even years
The good news is that while the discomfort may be severe and finding relief from shingles pain difficult, the condition itself is not dangerous. Treatment for shingles pain generally consists of medication to ease the symptoms and allow a normal level of function.
What are the types of knee injuries that occur in sports?
The knee is a very vulnerable joint when it comes to athletic endeavors. Several structures are at risk of sudden or acute injury, while others may be prone to pain related to overuse. Here is the breakdown of the more common knee injuries in sports:
- Cartilage damage- The meniscus is the cartilage in the knee, lining the weight-bearing surfaces of the bone and providing cushioning and stability as you jump, bend, and twist. The meniscus can be torn or split partially or completely (think hangnail) from twisting or over-flexing the knee. Pain when the joint line is touched, general aching, a catching, locking, or buckling sensation, and possible swelling are the common symptoms.
- Ligament sprain- The medial and lateral collateral (on the inside and outside) and the cruciate ligaments (they criss-cross inside the joint and hold it together) are vulnerable to partial or complete rupture from a blow to the side of the leg, stepping on something (like a ball, someone's foot, or in a hole), a sudden twist (catching a ski, for example), or buckling when landing from a jump. Pain, tenderness, swelling and instability are the signs to look for.
- Tendinitis- Inflammation or chronic irritation of a tendon, usually the one beneath the kneecap (which is called jumper's knee). With tendinitis, there will be pain with active use of the involved muscle, tenderness, and sometimes swelling.
- Patellofemoral problems- The patella is the kneecap, and this problem involves the articulation between the kneecap and the bone is sits on, the lower part of the femur. If the kneecap is sitting at a strange angle or doesn't travel properly within the groove in the lower part of the femur, there will be pain. The pain usually is worse when climbing stairs, sitting, jumping, squatting, or running.
Knee problems can become chronic if not treated properly. Keep yourself in the game by getting a proper diagnosis of your injury and following a good plan for recovery.
How do I treat a sports injury?
Everything was going great--the team was ahead, the championship was in the bag, a great meal was waiting at home. Then your foot found an opponent's shoe and next thing you know you're on your rear with a throbbing ankle. What should you do now?
Treating sports injuries begins and ends with the acronym R.I.C.E., which stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Here are the steps:
- Rest- Stop whatever it was you were doing immediately. Try to stay off the involved area and avoid using it for the first day or so after injury.
- Ice- Put an ice pack, towel or t-shirt filled with ice, cold compress, or bag of frozen peas (they work great and the pieces are small, so they conform to any body part easily) on the injured area for at least 15 or 20 minutes. Avoid getting it too cold (and potentially causing frostbite) by placing a thin layer of towel or cloth between the ice and the skin
- Compression- Wrap the ice on, and when the ice is off keep an elastic wrap on the area, binding it from the far end toward the body (helping any swelling get pumped back into the circulatory system). The compression wrap should be snug, but not so tight that the farthest points in the extremity (for example, the fingers or toes) get cold or numb.
- Elevation- Try to keep the injured area up above the level of the heart. This will also help reduce swelling and assist in getting excess fluid pumped back to the heart.
This home-spun approach can begin as soon as the injury occurs, right on the court or field, and should continue at home for the first 2-48 hours after injury. The idea is to slow down the inflammatory process. After the first day or two of using R.I.C.E., see a doctor if the situation doesn't start to resolve on its own.
What is the difference between a sprain and a strain?
Sprains and strains are extremely common sports injuries, accounting for 4.5 million doctor visits a year. Over one-third of those are active adults between the ages of 25-44, and men have a 30% greater chance than women of experiencing a sprain or strain. So what is the difference? A sprain:
- Affects ligaments, which are the fibrous tissues that attach one bone to another, and can result in instability of the joint involved
- Occurs when a joint is moved beyond its normal range of motion or forced into an unnatural position
- Ranges in degrees, classified based on what percentage of the ligamentous fibers are involved
- Means that some or all of the fibers are overstretched or possibly torn
- Frequently involves the ankle, knee or fingers
- Affects muscles or tendons, the ropy ends of the muscles that attach the muscle to the bone it moves
- Ranges in severity, from general soreness or stiffness to an actual disruption of the integrity of the muscle
- Is classified depending on how many and how extensively the muscle fibers are torn
- Can occur when a muscle is made to work extra hard to overcome an unusual amount of resistance
- May affect any muscle in the body at any time, but will usually occur in the one most involved in the activity you're doing
Most sprains and strains resolve easily, perhaps with a little treatment. But if the injury is more severe, or your sports-related goals run the risk of being compromised, work with a qualified trainer or physical therapist to reach an optimal level of function.