Jolin Tsai has shingles - what is it?

Jolin Tsai has shingles - what is it?
PHOTO: Instagram/Jolin Tsai

Taiwanese pop star Jolin Tsai worried fans from all around the world when she was hospitalised with acute gastroenteritis on the third day of the Lunar New Year.

The Mandopop singer's health took another dip after she caught shingles that was brought on by her weakened immune system. The virus affected her skin in the area close to her eyes and ears, and if left untreated, doctors warned that the virus may spread to her eyes.

Following Jolin's weakened health, her company announced on Feb 28, 2017 that plans for a new song release will be pushed back and her concert tour, originally scheduled for August, will also be delayed till sometime next year.

The "Play" singer who recently showed up for the Michelin Guide Taipei 2018 Gala dinner to interact with her fans and the media for the first time since she took ill revealed to the Taiwanese media that she was initially unaware of the severity of her illness and thought nothing of it.

It was only when she was admitted to the hospital for further observation that she realised that it was serious.

Jolin reassured her fans and the media that she is on the road to recovery and shared her relief that her Shingles did not leave her with scars on her face.

The queen of Mandopop urged everyone not to overlook even common flu viruses and symptoms as they have to be treated as soon as possible to prevent it from escalating into something more serious.

Indeed, as Jolin rightly mentioned, prevention is always better than cure. So, here's what you need to know about skin condition that plagued the singer.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is also known as herpes zoster which is characterised by a painful blistering rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox (the varicella-zoster virus).

Unfortunately, if you have had chickenpox, the virus that caused it may continue to live on (in an inactive state) in the nerves linked to your spinal cord even after the spots have cleared.

This virus becomes active when there is a sudden weakening of the body's immunity system. It will then multiply and move along the nerve fibres to the skin supplied by them.

Shingles would then appear on the surface of the skin.

Hence, if you are undergoing treatments like radiotherapy or chemotherapy, suffer from a history of bone or lymphatic cancer or medical conditions like HIV/AIDS, you have a higher risk of contracting Shingles because your immune system is compromised.

Additionally, stress and old age (above 60 years old) has also been known to increase the chances of developing Shingles.

Unlike chicken pox, Shingles is less much less contagious and people with Shingles can spread the virus to a susceptible person (someone who has never had chicken pox or is already ill) only if the blisters are broken.

In patients with more severe infections, the elderly, those blisters that have become infected, those who used toxic home remedies (that involve chemicals and burning), some degree of scarring may occur.

How do I know if I have Shingles?

The first symptom you might experience is discomfort in the form of burning pain, tingling sensation or extreme sensitivity.

This may happen one to three days before a red rash appears. Groups of blisters on a red base that last for two to three weeks typically follow. Pus may appear and then crust over before they start to disappear.

How long does it last?

While a Shingles attack usually lasts around three to five weeks, the condition could be aggravated and worsened when there is an infection of the blisters by bacteria.

This will result in a delayed healing of the skin and antibiotics are needed in this instance.

In individuals that are very ill, Shingles could also lead to high fever and a spread of the disease all over the body.

Another major complication of Shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) - a condition that occurs when the virus continues to stay in the body and cause pain even after the Shingles have healed. Such pain can either be constant or episodic and could be exacerbated at night.

Is there a cure?

While there is no cure for Shingles, proper treatment and anti-viral medication and painkillers, as well as calamine lotion and anti-itch medication can be prescribed to ameliorate the pain and discomfort.

Anti-depressants are also administered to alleviate the nerve-related pain by blocking the neurotransmitters.

Prevention is key

There is a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved vaccine that reduced the risk of shingles by 50 per cent in clinical trials. Currently, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends its use for adults over the age of 60.

In the meantime, try to incorporate healthy-living strategies in your daily life like maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly, to give your immune system the upper hand.

Every part of your body (your immune system included) will function better when bolstered by these healthy-living practices.

The above medical information is from the Healthxchange website, National Skin Centre website and the Tan Tock Seng Hospital website.

This article was first published in Her World Online

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