Every male who has been through a high school health class is aware of the symptoms of herpes. Signs of blisters filled with fluid, itching and soreness are common indicators of this sexually transmitted virus. However, herpes simplex is not an inevitable diagnosis when these symptoms appear.
Shingles, known medically as herpes zoster, is a virus which is also characterized by blisters and itching; however, it is not considered as an STD. Understanding the symptoms can help men to make informed decisions about their treatment. Suggestions on caring for the penis and maintaining sexual health are also provided here.
What is shingles, exactly?
Shingles is an inflammatory condition of the nerves and surrounding skin. It is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox – the herpes varicella-zoster virus (or simply zoster virus). Anyone who has had the chickenpox can develop shingles, usually later in life – generally after the age of 50. The varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in the body once an individual has recovered from chicken pox, but it can be reactivated much later, resulting in the symptoms of shingles.
What are the symptoms?
Most patients describe the initial symptoms as tingling or pain and tenderness of the skin. In 2-3 days after the appearance of these symptoms, a clustered red rash may appear. The rash may resolve into blisters that appear to be filled with water. The rash generally clears up on its own after 2-3 weeks; however, intense itching and pain – a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia – may continue for months, or even years, after the initial symptoms have disappeared.
Blisters on the penis: The blisters most often appear on the torso and buttocks, but they can also affect the genitalia, including the head and shaft of the penis. Severe penis itching may accompany the blisters. The penis symptoms of shingles closely resemble those of the herpes simplex virus, an incurable STD that is highly contagious. Any sign of a blistering rash on the penis should be evaluated by a doctor.
Other flu-like symptoms may accompany the disease, including fever, headache, upset stomach or abdominal pain, fatigue, confusion and memory loss.
Is herpes zoster contagious?
Shingles are only contagious if the blisters are broken, and will only affect individuals who have not had chicken pox. However, they will develop chicken pox, not shingles.
Anyone who has had chicken pox can develop shingles; however, it is more common in individuals with a suppressed immune system, such as people with HIV/AIDS or those who are receiving radiation or chemotherapy. Certain bone and lymphatic cancers also increase the risk of developing shingles.
While shingles will resolve on its own, more severe cases may be treated with an antiviral medication – particularly when it affects the eyes or causes penis blisters. As with chickenpox, using pain relievers, cool compresses and anti-itch formulas such as calamine lotion may help to ease the itching, burning sensation.
Daily care for the penis skin
While caring for the penis does not mean that problems such as shingles won’t occur, taking good care of the equipment can help to keep it in top condition and help boost the body’s resistance to disease. Cleaning the penis every day can prevent a buildup of bacteria that increases the risk for infection – not to mention unpleasant odors. Adding a penis nutrient cream (most health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) to the personal care routine can help to ensure that the penis is well-nourished and resistant to minor skin damage and that the skin retains its natural moisture balance – all important factors in maintaining overall penile health.