Shingles vs Herpes: How are They Different from One Another?

There are many forms of Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases often abbreviated as (S.T.I’S/S.T.D’S). Some are common while others tend to be rare. Shingles and herpes are two common but varying types of such diseases. People tend to confuse the two, with others falsely asserting that shingles is a form of herpes. This article aims to correct such assertions and put out what is scientifically right and medically correct out there. Shingles and herpes are two very different and distinct diseases.

They differ right from the onset based on their causative agents and continue to differ in their varied signs and symptoms, right up to their methods of transmission. Shingles is also referred to as herpes zoster in medical circles and herpes being referred to as herpes simplex. Due to the near similarity of their names, people tend to confuse them as being one and the same type of disease, which is to say the least far from the truth. So, shingles vs herpes. Let’s get it figured out!

Shingles VS Herpes

The only similarity between these two diseases is the fact that they stem from the same family virus which is the herpes virus. There are eight known types of this virus. Herpes herein herpes simplex is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (H.S.V) which usually has two variants namely HSV-1 and HSV-2.

Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster Virus also known as HHV3 that also causes chicken pox. The difference does not end there.

They also differ in their respective signs and symptoms and also in their varied modes of transmission and treatment.

We will start by first looking at herpes simplex.

Herpes

Herpes

Herpes, also referred to as Herpes Simplex, is a contagious sexually transmitted disease that can be contracted during sexual intimacy. Its signs and symptoms are usually slow to appear and may take up to seven days prior to the first symptoms showing. In some people, they may take up to months and even years before showing. This is because this said virus may stay in one’s body in a dormant state without necessarily leading to symptoms there and then. The duration prior to signs and symptoms appearing is hence dependent on a person’s age and immune system.

Symptoms of Herpes

The primary symptoms brought by this viral infection are:

  1. A high throbbing fever.
  2. After the fever has appeared, then red blisters show on the mouth (also known as cold sores), genitals, rectum, thighs, and buttocks. These blisters may sometimes rupture and this could lead to secondary infections.
  3. Herpes also leads to one having a general feeling of discomfort, which is also referred to as malaise; a feeling whereby one feels like they do not want to do anything, but feel extremely bored and uneasy.
  4. Patients also feel pain when passing out urine, which is another telling symptom of herpes simplex.
  5. Vaginal discharge and a foul smell are other signs in women. These symptoms usually last for up to twenty days but the sores heal leaving behind no scars.

Due to the fact that this disease is viral, it can hence not be cured and as such it will always remain in one’s body. This tends to lead to recurring symptoms after some time but this are usually less painful and stressing as compared to the first primary symptoms. This is because the body has by then created or developed a stronger immunity to curb against the effects of this said virus. Its symptoms will hence recur later even after the twenty day time lapse but will be less severe then.

Treatment of Herpes

There are several known ways of treating herpes. They are outlined below:

  1. Uptake of Vitamin C and Zinc which helps and greatly facilitates in boosting one’s natural immunity so as to combat the said disease then and in future, should it reoccur.
  2. Paracetamols may be prescribed so as to ease the pain caused by the symptoms, in some cases the pain may be dire.
  3. Persons with the said infection have reported feeling a temporary relief once they take a warm bath, sometimes laced with a little bit of salt.
  4. Strong anti-viral drugs may be prescribed to combat the said virus, such as acyclovir, however, they do not serve to cure the virus as it is chronic.
  5. One may use Vaseline or any other viable petroleum jelly or aloe vera to apply on the affected areas with blisters. This aids in soothing them and hastening their healing process. It also prevents their rupture, which would consequently lead to unwanted secondary infections in the affected area. Hygiene is also a key to the problem, while dealing with the respective blisters to avoid their contamination.

Shingles

Shingles

Also referred to as Herpes Zoster, is a type of the Herpes Human Virus, caused by the Varicella Zoster virus (HHV-3) that is also responsible for causing chickenpox. Shingles is different from herpes as they are caused by different types of the Herpes Human Virus. This virus is chronic, so, despite treatment, the virus still remains in one’s body and may be triggered to recur again after sometime. For Shingles in particular, the virus tends to stay in one’s nerve tissue, which is located near one’s spinal cord and brain until when it is triggered. Upon being triggered, it travels down to the closest skin tissue and manifests itself as a rash, usually on the neck or torso. It tends to be more prevalent in older adults and persons with weak immune systems. Shingles, unlike Herpes, is not contagious. It cannot be passed on, however, there is a small chance that it can be passed on to someone who has not gotten chicken pox or its vaccine. Should it be passed on to such a person, they may suffer from shingles later in life.

Symptoms of Shingles

The signs and symptoms brought about by shingles tend to be more severe than those emanating from herpes simplex. It has several signs and symptoms as shown below:

  1. A painful skin rash develops. These rashes usually show up on one’s neck or torso and more often than not on only one side of the body.
  2. A burning pain also develops that may be mild/severe as it ranges from one person to another.
  3. A fever, headache or just a feeling of general discomfort.
  4. Blisters (painful) may also appear

Treatment of Shingles

There are various modes of treating herpes zoster or shingles. However, the fact that it is caused by a virus means it cannot be removed from one’s body completely. It is a chronic illness and may thus recur from time to time even after treatment, depending on one’s age and natural immunity level.  Age and immunity level are the determinants on recurrence. The various methods of treatment are as listed below:

  1. The use of anti-viral drugs such as acyclovir, or famciclovir under the brand name Famvir may be prescribed to a patient.
  2. Painkillers or pain relievers may be prescribed when the pain is excessive and excruciating by medical standards. In dire cases, narcotic consisting medication may be given, such as opoids which include codeine.
  3. There are available vaccines in most medical hospitals and approved clinics which assist in curbing of this infection.
  4. In some instances, under the discretion of a certified medical practitioner, paracetamols may be prescribed, so as to reduce the pain emanating from this infection.
  5. As the rashes tend to rupture, sometimes becoming susceptible to secondary infections, one is advised to use Calamine lotion as it helps curb secondary infections, keeping them at bay.

Conclusion

 These two diseases are different right from their causative agents, and up to their signs and symptoms, all the way to their methods of treatment.

The factual and scientific differences that exist serve to render shingles and herpes as being different diseases, contrary to what some may think. Shingles and herpes, also referred to as herpes zoster and herpes simplex respectively, however share the same family of viruses, herein the herpes virus. This is where there similarity begins and ends, and when it comes to the medical basics of both diseases as above-mentioned and detailed, one’s eyes will truly be opened to see that indeed, they are distinct. Shingles and herpes are different, and that is a proven and tested fact.

Based on the fact that these two diseases are in fact viral and can not be ridden from a patient’s body in totality once acquired, we offer advice by asserting the old adage that indeed prevention is better than cure,  and the best treatment for the aforementioned diseases would be to refrain from unprotected sexual encounters.

Sources and References

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
  2. Mayoclinic: Diseases and Conditions – Shingles
  3. University of Maryland Medical Center: Shingles and chickenpox (Varicella-zoster virus)
  4. Medscape: Herpes Zoster

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