Shingles is a disease which is characterized by eruptions on the skin along a nerve path. In this article, we will look into the symptoms of shingles during pregnancy along with the treatment options.
Women feel overwhelmed with all types of emotions while they are pregnant. Nurturing the new life within their body gives them an immense amount of satisfaction and happiness. One, however, cannot ignore the fears and apprehensions that tag along during this time. Even a minor health issue is enough to make them panic and worry about the impact it will have on the life within. Though every pregnant woman tries her level best to minimize exposure to the disease-causing agents, some of the viruses or bacteria may get transmitted through respiratory secretions or directly through the air we breathe. If the immune system is compromised, varicella-zoster virus can even get reactivated during pregnancy.
Both chickenpox as well as shingles are caused by this virus. If one has already suffered from chickenpox during childhood, one develops immunity against it. The virus, however, lies dormant within the body. It can get reactivated and cause a skin condition called shingles. Though the incidence of shingles in pregnant women is quite low, exposure to the varicella virus can have serious repercussions on the health of the baby. In case of a pregnant woman who didn’t have chickenpox during her childhood, there is a risk of contracting chickenpox. Chickenpox is one such condition that can have an adverse effect on the fetus. Given below is some information on the symptoms of shingles during pregnancy along with the treatment options.
Symptoms of Shingles in Pregnant Women
Shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster, occurs when the varicella-zoster virus that was lying dormant in the body gets reactivated. Though this condition is not very common during pregnancy, it may occur if the immune system of the pregnant woman is weakened due to severe stress or any other condition. If it does affect a pregnant woman, the symptoms can be quite distressing. The early symptoms of shingles include burning pain, tingling sensation, itching or overtly sensitive skin on one side of the face or the body.
Tingling or itching sensations may be felt along a part of the sensory nerve of the face. This nerve is referred to as the trigeminal nerve. The rashes could even develop on either side of the torso or the body. Fever, chills, nausea, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue or digestive problems are some of the other symptoms that may be accompanied by the blisters that develop along the path of individual nerves.
These blisters get filled with fluid and later crust over. The affected skin generally heals within three to four weeks. At times, the color of the skin affected by shingles may change and one may experience nerve pain at the site even after the rash has been cleared. The symptoms of shingles in pregnant women are not any different. Though the complications caused due to chickenpox during pregnancy are more serious, any infection at the time of pregnancy is likely to cause problems. If left untreated, the mother may suffer from varicella pneumonitis. This condition can certainly have an adverse impact on the mother as well as the child. The effect of this condition depends on the stage of pregnancy.
It is believed that if shingles occurs after the sixth month, complications that may affect the health of the unborn child are less likely. Timely treatment involving use of certain anti-viral drugs can certainly reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Treatment of Shingles in Pregnant Women
Now that you have a basic idea about the signs of shingles, let’s move on to the preventive measures and the treatment options. If one has already suffered from chickenpox during childhood, the antibodies that can fight the virus would already be present in the body. Those who haven’t had chickenpox in the past, however, are not immune. So, a pregnant woman who hasn’t had chickenpox in her past needs to be very careful. Since there is a risk of developing chickenpox on coming in contact with a person diagnosed with chickenpox or shingles, there is a need to maintain distance from infected persons.
As far as the treatment is concerned, drug therapy coupled with certain self-care measures can definitely help in alleviating the symptoms of shingles during pregnancy. Valacyclovir, famciclovir and acyclovir are some of the drugs that are commonly prescribed for the treatment of shingles. Though not as serious as chickenpox, shingles is definitely a very discomforting condition. Itching and nerve pain can surely cause a great deal of discomfort. Itching can be tackled by applying certain ointments on the affected skin. Application of cold compresses usually help in soothing the irritated skin. Certain painkillers may also be prescribed in order to ease pain or discomfort.
Though health experts believe that chickenpox is certainly more dangerous, they haven’t reached a consensus regarding the connection between birth defects and shingles. Some believe that if the virus gets reactivated during the early stages of pregnancy, it may pose certain risks to the fetus. It is therefore, important to consult a doctor if one notices the signs of herpes. Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox in their childhood must stay away from anyone who has been diagnosed with chickenpox or shingles.