14 Common Symptoms of Varicella Zoster

The varicella-zoster virus is the virus responsible for both chickenpox infections as well as shingles. It can be easily combated through childhood vaccination. That being said, there are some unvaccinated members of the population that contract the virus. Some refuse vaccination due to personal beliefs while others are physically unfit for vaccination based on their doctor’s findings. In any case, getting early treatment for chickenpox and shingles is the best way to effectively fight back against the varicella-zoster virus.

Of course, you can’t treat the virus early if you don’t even know you have it. That’s why today we’re going to take you through eight of the common symptoms that might come with the varicella-zoster virus. Hopefully, by keeping you in the loop on the various signs of the virus, you’ll be able to catch it earlier and thus nip the problem at the bud before more complications arise.

1. Muscle weakness

Muscle weakness is more common in patients who are suffering from shingles rather than chickenpox. It generally gets worse over time as the varicella-zoster virus makes it way through your body. The affected area will also likely start out rather small but proceed to spread to other areas as the viral expansion progresses. It’s worth noting that other conditions such as rickets or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis can also lead to muscle weakness thus it alone shouldn’t be used to diagnose shingles.

That being said, it often comes together with other, more characteristic symptoms of varicella-zoster. When you notice muscle weakness in conjunction with the other symptoms on this list then you can be pretty sure that it’s being caused by the varicella-zoster virus. If you notice muscle weakness in isolation, however, then the cause is most likely another condition.

2. Painful eyes

Another symptom that you might encounter when the varicella-zoster causes shingles is the sensation of pain in the eye. Other ocular conditions such as hyperopia or glaucoma may lead to pain around your eyes. However, pain caused by shingles is arguably more serious due to the fact that it could lead to permanent damage if it’s left untreated. The easiest way to distinguish between pain from an ocular condition and pain caused by varicella-zoster is by seeing if other symptoms such as a rash or muscle weakness are present.

Painful eyes alone have a wide range of causes, but this specific set of symptoms is limited to shingles save for a few other, rare conditions. If you suspect that you might have shingles and that the painful eyes are the result of it, you should seek immediate care so that you can receive appropriate treatment before permanent damage occurs in your eyes leading to impaired vision or even total blindness in some cases.

3. Loss of taste

The varicella-zoster virus has been known to negatively impact various senses of the body. The first is your sense of sight as we covered in the previous symptom, but what many people might not know is that your sense of taste can also be affected when you have shingles due to the way that the varicella-zoster virus affects your body.

Much like painful eyes, loss of taste isn’t exclusive to shingles and can also be caused by other conditions that aren’t related to varicella-zoster. Sinus infections, smoking, and even the common cold could suppress your taste buds and make it harder for you to pick up on flavors of your food. That being said, if you notice a loss of taste and it comes in unison with the other symptoms indicative of varicella-zoster then you’re likely dealing with a case of shingles.

4. Hearing impairment

Keeping with the sensory deprivation theme, it’s important to know that varicella-zoster can impair your hearing when it causes shingles. It has always baffled scientists how a single virus can affect three of the five basic senses that human beings rely on to experience the world. You might notice a loss of hearing that gets worse over time.

This usually occurs in both ears simultaneously though there have been some reports of only one ear having impaired earing and the other remaining perfectly fine — however, these reports are yet to be confirmed. There are other conditions that may lead to hearing impairment. These include eardrum ruptures and brain tumors That being said, neither one of those conditions causes a rash or other shingles-like symptoms making it relatively easy to distinguish between conditions when varicella-zoster leads to hearing impairment.

5. Fever

Seeing as varicella-zoster is a virus, it should come as no surprise that you’ll suffer from a fever when you contract it. After all, the standard response that your body has to invasive pathogens such as viruses is to heat up your body in an effort to kill off the threat. Fever is found in both chickenpox and shingles due to the fact that your immune system generally responds in the same way to both of the  conditions that the varicella-zoster virus causes

The fever will generally get higher if the varicella-zoster virus remains untreated and could pose a serious health risk if your body temperature gets too high. If you notice a fever coming on due to shingles or chickenpox then you should admit yourself to the ER if needed so that you can receive proper care and avoid hyperthermia.

6. Headache

Another symptom that occurs in both chickenpox and shingles is a headache. Most patients who suffered from headaches as a result of the varicella-zoster virus have said that its onset was slow and gradual. That being said, while it may start off subtle, it can reach very high intensities over time if the underlying condition remains untreated.

It often occurs in conjunction with eye pain in cases of shingles due to the fact that both of the symptoms manifest when the varicella-zoster virus reaches your sinuses and overall cranial area. Brain aneurysms can also lead to a headache.

That being said, these aneurysms don’t typically lead to rashes and other varicella-zoster-esque symptoms. A subarachnoid hemorrhage will also cause a headache but this is more acute in nature making it easy to tell the difference between the headaches caused by shingles or chickenpox.

7. Loss of appetite

If you’ve contracted the varicella-zoster virus then you’ll likely see a sharp decline in your appetite. There are quite a few reasons for this. First of all, if you’re dealing with a case of shingles rather than chickenpox then your impaired sense of taste will make food less appetizing, leading to you eating less. That being said, patients with chickenpox also lose their appetite — albeit to a lesser extent — so what gives?

Well, the fever the occurs in both conditions caused by varicella-zoster is very taxing on your body. Your immune system will be wholly focused on fighting the virus and restoring your health. That being the case, your body may forget to pay close attention to other base functions such as hunger. It’s the same reason that you don’t notice hunger when you’re thirsty. Your body has a unique way of prioritizing its needs. When it’s busy fighting off a virus it doesn’t pay much attention to food.

8. Rash

Of course, there’s no clearer symptom of varicella-zoster than the skin rash that comes with it. It’s universally present in all cases of shingles and chickenpox, making it one of the most identifiable characteristics of both conditions. There are quite a few stages that the rash will take on before being resolved.

It will start off as bumps on your body that are either red or pink in color. Over time, these bumps will become filled with fluids that may leak occasionally. As the bumps start to heal, they’ll take on a crusty and scab-like appearance. This is their final stage and once the scabs are present they will start to heal. The fluid from within these bumps can be highly contagious thus anyone cleaning them is advised to use gloves and wash their hands with soap and warm water afterward.

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