Both chickenpox (varicella) and shingles (zoster) can usually be diagnosed by a family doctor on the basis of symptoms alone. In fact, your doctor can easily diagnose chickenpox by examining the characteristic rash and by noting the presence of accompanying symptoms. Be sure to call ahead for an appointment, to avoid waiting and possibly infecting others in a crowded waiting room. If a diagnosis is still unclear after a physical examination, you may be recommended to see a dermatologist or diagnostic tests may be required.
Medical tests usually aim to distinguish between varicella-zoster and herpes simplex viruses. The doctor may take a sample scraping from a lesion or blister to send to a pathologist for microscopic analysis. Most dermatologists can make this diagnosis without any special tests, but blood tests can be requested in those questionable cases. Furthermore, if symptoms are not straightforward (ex. immunosuppressed people), the doctor performs one or more additional tests to detect the virus itself.
Immunofluorescence assay - this diagnostic technique aims to identify antibodies to a specific virus. Specific characteristics of how light behaves as seen through a microscope helps identify antibodies. This test is less expensive than a culture, more accurate, and results are faster.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) - this technique replicates the DNA of a sample virus millions of times until the virus is detectable. PCR is expensive but is useful for unusual cases, such as identifying possible infection of the central nervous system.
Virus culture - A viral culture uses blister, fluid or sometimes spinal fluid samples to detect possible viruses. Cultures are also used to determine if a varicella-like infection is caused by a natural virus or by the vaccine in vaccinated people. This test is useful, but it is sometimes difficult to recover the virus from the samples.
Most doctors recommend the all children who haven't had chickenpox be vaccinated against the virus. Plus, early treatment of chicken pox (during the first day of the rash) can help prevent scarring that results after itching. your doctor can also prescribe medications to lessen the severity of disease and treat complications, if necessary. But which treatments are now available? Continue reading the Chicken Pox Treatment section that follows too learn more about treatment options including the chicken pox vaccine.
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