Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease for people who have not been vaccinated. It is caused by the varicella virus and generally strikes children younger than 15. According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs and symptoms of chicken pox arrive in three phases. At the onset, raised red or pink bumps appear on the skin. These soon become blisters that are filled with fluid (vesicles). In the final stage of the disease, the blisters harden and produce a crusty scab. A fever, headache and possible abdominal pain can accompany the bumps and blisters. In the majority of cases the disease is not serious and will run its course in a week to 10 days. Occasionally, severe problems can develop from chicken pox, especially among older children and adults.
Once you’ve had chicken pox, at least a trace of the varicella virus can linger in your nerve cells. In some cases, the virus can reemerge years later as a condition known as shingles. Shingles, while not life-threatening, can cause a very a painful cluster of blisters to form on the skin. You also might experience tingling, numbness and a burning sensation. Shingles commonly affects only one side of your body and usually heals naturally within a few weeks. However a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia (PA) can cause the pain to persist even after the blisters have disappeared.
Postherpetic neuralgia is a painful complication of shingles that disturbs skin and nerve fibers. It typically affects the area of your body where shingles broke out. PA can make your skin highly sensitive to touch and cause sharp or burning pain. Treatment options include certain anticonvulsants (gabapentin/neurontin, pregabalin/lyrica) or painkillers such as tramadol (Ultram).
Reyes syndrome is a rare, potentially deadly disease that occurs in children, generally ages 4 to14, who have recently recovered from chicken pox or other viral infections. Reyes syndrome usually can be treated successfully when caught early. It typically develops one to two weeks following a case of chicken pox. Reyes syndrome causes the brain and liver to swell. Common signs are sleepiness, chronic vomiting and possibly diarrhea. Severe symptoms include seizures, confusion and unconsciousness. Reyes syndrome usually requires hospitalization. The Mayo Clinic says the current survival rate is about 80 percent.