When To Contact A Doctor
Its important to visit your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you have shingles, especially if youre somebody at an increased risk of developing it.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends visiting a dermatologist or other healthcare professional within 3 days to prevent long-term complications.
Shingles typically clears up within a few weeks and does not commonly recur. If your symptoms have not lessened within 10 days, contact a doctor for a follow-up and reevaluation.
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.
Is There A Vaccine Against Shingles
Shingix is currently the only shingles vaccine available in the United States. Its given to people over age 50.
Previously, an additional vaccine, Zostavax, was used, but it was phased out in the United States as of November 2020.
According to the CDC, two doses of Shingrix are over 90 percent effective at preventing shingles. Youll retain at least 85 percent protection for 4 years after being vaccinated.
If you get shingles after being vaccinated, your symptoms will likely be less severe. Youll also have a lower chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia a complication where pain remains even after a shingles rash goes away.
Shingles usually follows a pattern of development. It typically progresses with the following symptoms:
- First, you may notice a tingling or burning sensation in your skin.
- One to 5 days later a rash appears as small red spots.
- Fluid-filled blisters develop a few days later.
- After 7 to 10 days, the lesions crust over.
- The rash disappears over the next 2 to 4 weeks.
In some cases, pain may persist for several months or even years after the rash has disappeared. This complication, known as postherpetic neuralgia , can be severe enough to affect your quality of life.
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Shingles Inside Your Body
Can You Still Develop Shingles If Youve Been Vaccinated For Chickenpox
Yes. Despite being vaccinated for chickenpox, you can still get shingles. No vaccine is 100% protective, and the effectiveness of vaccines lessens with time. However, people who get the chickenpox vaccine are significantly less likely to develop shingles later in life compared with people who never received the chickenpox vaccine. One recent 12-year study found that the number of shingles cases was 72% lower in children who had received the chickenpox vaccine compared with those who didnt.
How Is Shingles Treated
Not all kids who get shingles need treatment. If a doctor decides a treatment may help, it should start right away. Treatment usually includes an antiviral medicine and pain-control medicines.
Antiviral medicines like acyclovir or valcylovir :
- help heal the skin rash
- stop the virus from multiplying
- help control pain
Read Also: When Is Shingles Most Painful
Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles
You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.
This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
Try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
Don’t Miss: Is Tylenol Or Advil Better For Shingles Pain
Are There Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System To Help Lessen The Chances Of Developing Shingles
Stress is a risk factor for developing shingles, so limiting your stress can be helpful. Try meditation, yoga or other relaxation methods.
Other things you can do include:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Dont smoke or use tobacco products.
These are all tips for an overall healthy lifestyle, not just for reducing your chance of getting shingles.
How Long Between Shingles Attack And Recurrence
The time between an initial shingles case and its relapse can vary a great deal, and there is no established figure. However, researchers have noted most of these flare-ups arise in the four- to eight-year window following an initial attack. Recurrence within three years is much rarer.
Factors such as overall health status and the presence of other diseases can spur attacks, and there are preventative medications and approaches.
Read Also: How Does A Person Get Shingles Rash
What Is The Treatment For Shingles And Recurring Shingles
The treatment for recurring shingles is the same as for shingles.
If you suspect that you have recurring shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. Taking an antiviral drug like acyclovir , valacyclovir , or famciclovir can reduce the severity of shingles and reduce how long it lasts.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lessen your pain and help you sleep. These include the following:
- Skin patches with the painkiller lidocaine are available. You can wear them on the affected area for a specific length of time.
- Skin patches that have 8 percent capsaicin, an extract of chili peppers, are available. Some people cannot tolerate the burning sensation, even though the skin is numb before the patch is put on.
- Antiseizure drugs, such as gabapentin and pregabalin , reduce pain by reducing the nerve activity. They have side effects that may limit the amount of the drug that you can tolerate.
- Antidepressants such as duloxetine and nortriptyline can be useful, especially to relieve pain and allow you to sleep.
- Opioid painkillers can relieve pain, but they have side effects, such as dizziness and confusion, and they can become addictive.
You can also take cool baths with colloidal oatmeal to ease the itching, or apply cold compresses to the affected area. Rest and stress reduction are also important.
What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Shingles
Often the first shingles symptoms happen in the area where the rash will appear. A person may have tingling, itching, or pain in this area. When the rash shows up, the pain may be mild or severe.
The rash starts as groups of tiny pimples on one side of the body or the face. It’s often in the shape of a band or belt. The pimples change to pus-filled blisters that break open and scab over in about 710 days. The scabs usually heal and fall off about 24 weeks after the rash starts.
Some kids with shingles also may have a fever and a headache, and might feel tired and achy. Rarely, a child has the pain of shingles without the rash. More severe symptoms can happen, but usually in people over age 50.
Recommended Reading: Should I Get A Shingles Shot Every Year
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.
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.
Don’t Miss: Best Over The Counter Pain Relief For Shingles
Can You Get Shingles From The Covid
There have been a few reports of shingles happening in people who were vaccinated against COVID-19. The varicella-zoster virus was reactivated in these people.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If youve had chickenpox, youre at risk of developing shingles later in life. Shingles causes a rash that is contagious and painful. The disease can have serious complications. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to get the shingles vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective.
What Is The Difference Between Shingles And Chickenpox
Chickenpox and shingles are both reactions caused by your immune system encountering the varicella zostervirus. If a person has never had chickenpox or hasnt been vaccinated for it, they are vulnerable to developing chickenpox as a result. Contact with someone who has shingles can also cause chickenpox, but only if the person exposed is being exposed for the first time.
Once the body has recovered from chickenpox, the virus will lay dormant in your bloodstream for the rest of your life. If the virus flares up again, shingles will be the result. This virus can flare up due to anything that significantly weakens the immune system. So while chickenpox is a one-and-done reaction to encountering a virus for the first time, shingles can reoccur. Individuals in their sixties and older are at particular risk for shingles flare-ups, as well as anyone with a weakened immune system.
It is also important to note that while shingles can cause chickenpox in individuals who have not had it yet, the condition itself is not contagious. Someone with shingles cannot give you shingles from close contact. Shingles is only caused by a flare-up of an existing virus.
Also Check: How To Tell If You Have Shingles
You Can Only Get Shingles If You’ve Had Chickenpox
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a condition caused by the same virus as chickenpox. About 350,000 Americans get chickenpox each year, which causes an itchy rash that lasts about a week. But even after your symptoms stop, the virus never leaves your body.
Most viruses are killed by your immune system, but the chickenpox virus hibernates inside your nerve roots, which are cords that transmit pain and itching sensations to your skin. You don’t feel any symptoms while the virus is dormant because your immune system stops the microbes from multiplying.
But as you age, your immune system tends to gets weaker. Like a collapsed dam, this weakened defense can let in a flood of viral microbes to your system, causing the virus to spread from your nerve root into your skin, and ultimately leading to a shingles outbreak.
How Long Does Shingles Last
Most cases of shingles last three to five weeks.
- The first sign is often burning or tingling pain sometimes it includes numbness or itching on one side of the body.
- Somewhere between one and five days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear.
- A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters.
- About one week to 10 days after that, the blisters dry up and crust over.
- A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.
You May Like: How Effective Is The New Shingles Vaccine
Who Is At Risk For Getting Shingles
People who have had chickenpox who are more likely to develop shingles include those:
- With a weakened immune system .
- Over the age of 50.
- Who have been ill.
- Who have experienced trauma.
- Who are under stress.
The chickenpox virus doesnt leave your body after you have chickenpox. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Researchers aren’t always sure why the virus gets reactivated, but this typically occurs at times of stress.
How Is Shingles Spread
You do not “catch” shingles it comes on when there’s a reawakening of chickenpox virus that’s already in your body. The virus can be reactivated because of a range of issues, including advancing age, medicine, illness or stress.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 people who have had chickenpox go on to develop shingles.
Read more about the causes of shingles.
Recommended Reading: Where Can I Buy Owens Corning Shingles
Is Shingles Airborne
The varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles is not airborne. It cant be spread if someone with shingles coughs or sneezes near you or shares your drinking glass or eating utensils.
The only way the virus is contagious is if you come into direct contact with an oozing blister of someone who has shingles. You wont get shingles, but you may develop chickenpox if youve never had it before.
How You Get It
A person infected with varicella zoster virus will usually get chickenpox. The disease may be mild or severe. However, it is possible to be infected with the virus and show no symptoms. Once someone has been infected the virus will lay dormant but be kept in check by the bodys immune system. As the immune system weakens the risk of shingles can increase. Certain medications, major surgery, skin burns, HIV, cancer or emotional stress and increasing age can all result in the immune system being weakened. Therefore, it is possible to get shingles with no history of clinical chickenpox. It is also possible to get shingles more than once and again this risk increases with age.
You May Like: Who Sells Tamko Heritage Shingles
How Do You Get Shingles
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox, you can get shingles.
Until I was diagnosed with shingles, I didn’t realize that once you’ve had chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus remains dormant in your body for the rest of your life. The virus may later become reactivated, causing the nerves and surrounding skin to become painful and inflamed, and thereby producing shingles. Sneaky little virus.
The only thing I remember about having chickenpox is lying on the couch with my brother, both of us dotted with the pink anti-itch lotion our mom had applied to our rashes with a cotton ball, but I’ve definitely had it.
According to The Mayo Clinic, the reactivated virus travels along your nerve pathways, causing painful blisters to appear on your skin. That’s how my doctor knew exactly what I had without even having to see me. What seemed totally random and bizarre to me was actually so specific, it led her right to a shingles diagnosis.
So, in sort of an odd way, you kind of get shingles from yourself or from your younger self, that is. Thanks a lot, kindergarten me!
My bigger question was how I got shingles at a relatively young age. I thought shingles was an “old people” disease.
I was thinner, but I was decidedly not healthier. My mind and body were stressed, and that made me extra vulnerable to developing shingles.
What Can I Do To Lower My Risk Of Shingles
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate the threat of shingles. However, there are two things that seniors can do to lower their risk:
- Take care of your immune system. Shingles flare-ups are caused by a weakened immune system, so a strong immune system will help you avoid that. Focus on nutrition, get regular exercise, and be sure to get your flu vaccine and other recommended vaccines as well.
- Ask your doctor about a shingles vaccine. There are two living and one non-living shingles vaccine currently available for seniors. These treatments are not appropriate for all seniors, especially those with ongoing immune deficiency issues. However, if you are able to take them, they will seriously lower your risk of a shingles flare-up. Ask your doctor about your medical history to see if these are an option.
Can you get shingles more than once? Its rare, but it happens. Dont assume youre off the hook for shingles just because youve had them once. Take care of your immune system, and talk to your doctor about shingles treatment and prevention.
Read Also: Can You Put Heat On Shingles
Plus Why It’s Important To Get The Shingles Vaccineeven If You’ve Had Shingles Before
Lambeth Hochwald is a believer that everyone has a story to tell. As a New York City-based journalist, she has been busily covering COVID-19 and its effects on everyone from college students and their parents to restaurant workers and ER doctors. Over the last few decades, she’s written for the New York Post, CNN, Parade, WebMD, Millie, Reside, the Food Network, Delish, and Architectural Digest, always with the same mandate to be compassionate, hence the hashtag #compassionatejournalism that she includes in her email auto-signature. When she’s not juggling assignments, she’s helping to teach the next generation of journalists in her role as an adjunct professor of journalism at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Its tough enough to endure shingles once in your life. After all, its painful to experience the red blister-like bumps that are characteristic of shingles, caused by a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus .
Its really rare to get chickenpox twice. But is it possible to get shingleswhich can feel intensely painful, like a burning, stabbing sensation and can last for two to six weeksmore than once?
Unfortunately, it is possible to get shingles twice . In fact, of the one in three people who experience shingles, women are at a higher risk of developing it a second time than men are. The longer you experience severe pain after shingles , the higher your chances of a shingles recurrence.