What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Shingles
The first symptom of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or itch, generally in a band-like distribution on one side of the body, i.e., around the waist, chest, stomach, or back. Shingles pain can be mild or intense. Some people have mostly itching some feel severe pain from the gentlest touch, such as the weight of bed linens or clothing. A few people may have general symptoms of a viral infection, like fatigue, fever, and headache.
After several days or up to two weeks after the first symptoms are felt, a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears. These are similar to chickenpox but occur in a cluster rather than scattered over the body. The number of vesicles is variable. Some rashes merge and produce an area that looks like a burn. Other people may have just a few small scattered lesions. The clusters most often appear in a band called a dermatome, which contains nerves that branch out from the virus-affected nerve root exiting the spine. The second most common location is on one side of the face around the eye and on the forehead. However, shingles can involve any part of the body, including internal organs.
Recent studies have shown that subtle cases of shingles with only a few blisters, or none, are more common than previously thought. These cases may remain unrecognized.
Which Shingles Vaccine Is Best
Eventually, your doctor will start mentioning the shingles vaccine which can help prevent shingles from developing, as well as reduce its severity if it does still develop. The shingles vaccine can also reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia, one of the most common complications of shingles.
“Because shingles becomes increasingly more common as a person ages, the shingles vaccine is currently recommended for people over the age of 50. There are two vaccine options, Shingrix and Zostavax, with Shingrix being the newer of the two vaccines and the preferred choice as it is more effective.”
When it comes to how the shingles vaccine works, Shingrix is a shot that requires two doses administered six months apart. There are temporary side of effects of this shingles vaccine that can be unpleasant, however. Shingles vaccine side effects typically don’t last more than three days, but include:
- Redness or swelling
How Long Does It Take To Recover
As your shingles infection clears up, your oral symptoms will get better.
In general, the blisters begin to scab after 7 to 10 days. It takes 3 to 5 weeks for the infection to clear, but the pain can last for weeks or months.
To work toward a speedy recovery, be sure to carefully follow your doctors treatment plan. Its also important to take care of yourself at home. This includes practicing self-care as mentioned above.
Other things you can do to improve your shingles recovery include:
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Is The Condition Curable
There is no cure for shingles, but attacks can be rendered less severe and their duration shortened with the use of prescription antiviral drugs.
Several antiviral medicinesacyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovirare available to treat shingles and shorten the length and severity of the illness. These medicines are most effective if you start taking them as soon as possible after the rash appears. If you think you have shingles, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment.
Pain medicine, either over-the-counter or a prescription from your doctor, may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths can also help relieve itching.
Key Points About Shingles
- Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerves. It causes a painful rash or small blisters on an area of skin.
- Shingles is caused when the chickenpox virus is reactivated.
- It is more common in people with weakened immune systems, and in people over the age of 50.
- Shingles starts with skin sensitivity, tingling, itching, and/or pain followed by rash that looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters.
- The rash is typically affects just one area on one side of the body or face.
- Treatment that is started as soon as possible helps reduce the severity of the disease.
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What Should You Expect If You Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and end symptoms earlier.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you’ve never had shingles in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
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First Signs: Burning Tingling Or Numbness Of The Skin
Usually, a small area of skin may burn, tingle, itch or simply feel very sensitive before any rash occurs, says Alina G. Bridges, D.O., an associate professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. This sensation can last roughly one to three days prior to skin lesions appearingand the discomfort can be intense. Its often mistaken for appendicitis, a heart attack or severe headache, says Dr. Bridges.
How Is Shingles Treated
Currently there is no cure for shingles, but attacks can be made less severe and shorter by using prescription antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famcyclovir as soon as possible after symptoms begin. Early treatment can reduce or prevent severe pain and help blisters dry faster. Antiviral drugs can reduce by about half the risk of being left with postherpetic neuralgia, which is chronic pain that can last for months or years after the shingles rash clears. Doctors recommend starting antiviral drugs at the first sign of the shingles rash, or if the telltale symptoms indicate that a rash is about to erupt. Other treatments to consider are anti-inflammatory corticosteroids such as prednisone. These are routinely used when the eye or other facial nerves are affected.
Most people with shingles can be treated at home.
People with shingles should also try to relax and reduce stress eat regular, well-balanced meals and perform gentle exercises, such as walking or stretching to keep active and stop thinking about the pain . Placing a cool, damp washcloth on the blistersbut not when wearing a topical cream or patchcan help blisters dry faster and relieve pain. Keeping the area clean can help avoid a secondary bacterial infection.
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What Causes Internal Shingles
The varicella zoster virus causes shingles. Its the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a bout of chickenpox, the virus becomes dormant in the body and settles in certain nerves and tissue of the nervous system. Later in life, the virus can reactivate and present itself as shingles. Shingles typically appears on the skin along the nerve path where it had been previously dormant. If the reactivation of the virus becomes severe, it can affect not only the skin but other organs too. This is what is called systemic or internal shingles.
Week One: Hearing Balance Or Eye Issues
For those whose shingles rash is in or around the eyes, forehead, nose or ear, risk of complications is high. For instance, if shingles has caused your eye to be red or swollen, youre at risk of a painful eye infection or vision loss. In addition, shingles infections withinor nearthe ear can cause Ramsay Hunt syndrome, where facial nerve damage can bring about hearing or balance issues and even paralysis on the affected side of the face. Other early symptoms to tune into include: Ear pain or ringing, difficulty shutting one eye, a loss of taste and dry mouth/dry eye.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
As with most other diseases, doctors will typically review your symptoms first. Be sure to take note of how long youve experienced symptoms, what your exact symptoms are, and their severity. Doctors may suspect internal shingles if your symptoms involve more than your skin. They will often suspect eye or nervous system involvement based on the location of the shingles rash. However, if you have a painful rash along with a cough, severe headache, or abdominal pain, you may have a more serious complication of shingles.
Doctors may perform the following tests to confirm your diagnosis of shingles:
- direct fluorescence antibody stain
Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 As Soon As You Suspect Shingles
You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems.
This works best if taken within 3 days of your symptoms starting.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP surgery for an urgent appointment.
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Am I At Risk For Shingles
Everyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles. Researchers do not fully understand what makes the virus become active and cause shingles. But some things make it more likely:
- Older age. The risk of developing shingles increases as you age. About half of all shingles cases are in adults age 60 or older. The chance of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70.
- Trouble fighting infections. Your immune system is the part of your body that responds to infections. Age can affect your immune system. So can HIV, cancer, cancer treatments, too much sun, and organ transplant drugs. Even stress or a cold can weaken your immune system for a short time. These all can put you at risk for shingles.
Most people only have shingles one time. However, it is possible to have it more than once.
Check If You Have Shingles
The first signs of shingles can be:
- a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
- a headache or feeling generally unwell
A rash will appear a few days later.
Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.
The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on 1 side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
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Can Shingles Come Back
Given that shingles results from the varicella zoster virus reactivating some amount of time after having chickenpox, you may be wondering if the virus can…re-reactivate after having shingles.
“Once shingles clears up, the virus simply goes back into hiding and, unfortunately, it can reactivate again in the future,” says Dr. Brown. “As far as the likelihood of shingles reoccurring, that’s still largely up for debate. One study found that the chance of getting shingles a second time is about 5%, but other studies show this number to be lower.”
One way to reduce your risk of getting shingles twice is the same preventive measure that helps prevent you from ever getting it in the first place: the shingles vaccine.
Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles already.
- Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
- You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.
Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.
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Can Infection With Vzv During Pregnancy Harm The Baby
Some infections can be transmitted across the mothers bloodstream to the fetus or can be acquired by the baby during the birth process. Chickenpox during pregnancy poses some risk to the unborn child, depending upon the stage of pregnancy. During the first 30 weeks, maternal chickenpox may, in some cases, lead to congenital malformations . Most experts agree that shingles in a pregnant woman is even less likely to cause harm to the unborn child.
If a pregnant woman gets chickenpox between 21 to 5 days before giving birth, her newborn can have chickenpox at birth or develop it within a few days. But the time lapse between the start of the mothers illness and the birth of the baby generally allows the mothers immune system to react and produce antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies can be transmitted to the unborn child and thus help fight the infection. Still, a small percent of the babies exposed to chickenpox in the 21 to 5 days before birth develop shingles in the first 5 years of life because the newborns immune system is not yet fully functional and capable of keeping the virus latent.
What Are The Risk Factors For Internal Shingles
Many of the risk factors for internal shingles are the same as those for the skin rash of shingles. They include:
- Having a weakened immune system. Diseases and conditions such as HIV/AIDS, organ transplant, and autoimmune conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease can make you more susceptible to shingles.
- Undergoing cancer treatment. Cancer, along with radiation and chemotherapy, also weaken your immune system and can increase your risk of a herpes zoster infection.
- Being older than 60. Shingles can occur in people of any age. However, its more common in older adults. About half the cases of shingles develop in people over 60 .
- Taking certain medications. Drugs that lower your chance of rejecting an organ transplant or treat autoimmune diseases will increase your risk of shingles. Examples include cyclosporine and tacrolimus . Extended use of steroids will also increase your risk. These medications suppress your immune system, making your body more vulnerable to infection.
Not receiving the shingles vaccine will also increase your chances of getting the condition. Even if you dont remember ever having chickenpox, you should get the shingles vaccine. Studies have shown that 99 percent of people over 40 have had chickenpox. According to the
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Shingles Vaccine Reduces Your Risk Of Getting Shingles
While there is no cure for shingles, getting the shingles vaccine can greatly reduce your risk of getting this disease.
Shingles vaccine reduces risk
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for healthy adults who are 50 years of age or older.
If you think you may already have shingles, treatment is important. It can reduce your pain and how long the rash lasts.
Find out how dermatologists diagnose and treat this condition at, Shingles: Diagnosis and treatment.
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Prevent Shingles: Get vaccinated. Page last reviewed July 23, 2018. Last accessed March 28, 2019.
ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention . Prevent Shingles: Get vaccinated. Page last reviewed July 23, 2018. Last accessed March 28, 2019.
Dooling KL, Guo A, et al. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018 67:103-8.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed And Treated
If you think you might have shingles, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Its important to see your doctor no later than three days after the rash starts. The doctor will confirm whether you have shingles and can make a treatment plan. Most cases can be diagnosed from a visual examination. If you have a condition that weakens the immune system, your doctor may order a shingles test. Although there is no cure for shingles, early treatment with antiviral medications can help the blisters clear up faster and limit severe pain. Shingles can often be treated at home.
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Month Two To Three: Lingering Itch
The lasting itch one can experience once the shingles rash clears is called postherpetic itch and it most commonly develops on the face and on skin thats already suffered sensory loss. Translations: Your skin is likely already feeling numb there. And since individuals are more likely to scratch numb skin too long and too vigorously, its important to turn to your healthcare provider for advice. He or she will likely suggest topical local anesthetics to help quell the urge to itch.
Other Complications Some Severe Include:
- Bacterial infection of the rash
- Herpes zoster ophthalmicus causes eye problems when shingles is severe on the face, near the eyes, impacting sight. When very severe, blindness can occur
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome causes problems within the ear’s auditory canal or external parts. It is accompanied by ear pain, internal or external blisters, and one-sided facial paralysis
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