What Problems Can Happen
Most cases of shingles heal on their own, with or without treatment, and won’t lead to any other problems. In rare cases, shingles can lead to complications, including:
- Ongoing pain : Damaged nerve fibers in the skin send confused messages to the brain, leading to pain. Pain can go on for a long time after the shingles rash is gone. This is the most common shingles complication.
- Vision problems: Shingles near or in an eye can lead to vision loss.
- Skin infections: A shingles rash can become infected with bacteria, leading to impetigo or cellulitis.
- Nervous system problems: Shingles on the face can involve different nerves that connect to the brain. This can lead to nerve-related problems such as facial paralysis, hearing problems, and problems with balance. In very rare cases, shingles can lead to encephalitis .
Do You Always Get The Typical Rash If You Have Shingles
Occasionally, some people dont get a rash. If you have any of the other symptoms of shingles , see your healthcare provider sooner rather than later. There are effective treatments you can take early for shingles. Even if you dont have shingles, seeing your healthcare provider will help you get your condition diagnosed and treated.
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.
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Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body
The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of your body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area. It doesnt spread over your whole body. Your torso is a common area, as is your face.
Risk Factors For Shingles Recurrence
Moore and colleagues studied the medical records of nearly 1,700 people with a confirmed shingles attack from 1996 to 2001. Only 8% had compromised immune systems, she says. But 95 of them suffered 105 recurrences by the end of 2007.
“Clearly most recurrent attacks are occurring in people with healthy immune systems,” she says.
The time between attacks ranged from 96 days to 10 years.
- 2.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 30 or more days during the initial episode
- 4.8 times more likely in people with shingles-associated pain for 60 or more days during the initial episode
- 60% more likely in women than men
- 40% more likely in people who were 50 or older when they had their initial attack
“Still, most recurrences occurred in people with none of these risk factors,” Moore says.
The only way to protect yourself against shingles is to be vaccinated, she adds. The vaccine, known as Zostavax, was approved for use in adults ages 60 and older after studies showed it prevents shingles about half the time.
IDSA spokesman Aaron Glatt, MD, of the New Island Hospital in Bethpage, N.Y., tells WebMD that he was “surprised” at the high rate of recurrence.
“We knew you could get another episode, but we didn’t know the risk was so great,” he says.
Merck, the company that makes the vaccine, funded the study.
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How Well Does Shingrix Work
Two doses of Shingrix provide strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia , the most common complication of shingles.
- In adults 50 to 69 years old with healthy immune systems, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.
- In adults 50 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.
- In adults with weakened immune systems, Shingrix was between 68% and 91% effective in preventing shingles, depending on their underlying immunocompromising condition.
In people 70 years and older who had healthy immune systems, Shingrix immunity remained high throughout 7 years following vaccination.
Why Is It Important To Receive A Vaccination Against Shingles
About 33% of adults in the U.S. will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Shingles can cause painful blisters, a rash, chills, and fever, among other symptoms. Many people who have shingles later develop PHN, which can cause long-lasting pain that is difficult to treat.
Getting the Shingrix vaccine can help individuals avoid shingles and PHN and help prevent shingles from spreading to vulnerable people.
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How To Pay For Shingrix
Commercial insurance covers about 96% of insured people for the Shingrix vaccine. Most people with private insurance will pay under $5 for each dose.
Programs like Medicaid cover Shingrix in certain states. Medicare Parts A and B do not cover the shingles vaccine. But individuals covered under Medicare prescription drug plans, or Part D, will have their vaccines covered.
For people who do not have access to insurance, there are a number of vaccine assistance programs and affordable health coverage options available. Many of these programs provide vaccines at little or no cost.
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.
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Can You Get Shingles More Than Once
Shingles is a severe skin rash caused by the herpes zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Those affected typically only experience the condition once . However, in rare cases, shingles recurs.
Estimates vary as to how common recurrence is. Some populations, including those that are immunocompromised, are more prone to it. One wide-ranging study found that as many as 5% of those who experience the condition develop it again within eight years.
Clearly, its worth looking at why this happens, what the risk factors are, as well as how to prevent shingles relapse.
librakv / Getty Images
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.
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When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
Early symptoms of shingles may include:
Other signs and symptoms that appear a few days after the early symptoms include:
- An itching, tingling or burning feeling in an area of your skin.
- Redness on your skin in the affected area.
- Raised rash in a small area of your skin.
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open then scab over.
- Mild to severe pain in the area of skin affected.
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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.
How Is Shingles Treated
Specific treatment for shingles will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- How long the shingles have been present
- Extent of the condition
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or preference
There is no cure for shingles. It simply has to run its course. Treatment focuses on pain relief. Painkillers may help relieve some of the pain. Antiviral drugs may help lessen some of the symptoms and reduce nerve damage. Other treatments may include:
- Creams or lotions to help relieve itching
- Cool compresses applied to affected skin areas
- Antiviral medicines
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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.
How Long Do Shingles Last
The answers varies, but most reliable sources say shingles typically lasts three to five weeks. And while there’s no cure for shingles, your doctor can prescribe medications to speed your recovery time and reduce your pain.
My doctor started me on an anti-viral treatment right away. Turns out sooner is better, and I was lucky to have caught the symptoms of shingles before any blisters showed up.
Despite being in pain, achy, exhausted, and running a low fever, I was fortunate to have a great doctor who helped me avoid some of the most painful aspects of a shingles rash by treating me immediately.
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Where Does Shingles Come From
When you have chickenpox as a child, your body fights off the varicella-zoster virus and the physical signs of chickenpox fade away, but the virus always remains in your body. In adulthood, sometimes the virus becomes active again. This time, the varicella-zoster virus makes its second appearance in the form of shingles.
Can You Prevent Shingles
If you have the varicella zoster virus in your body, you can get shingles. There’s no way to prevent it completely. But there are, fortunately, vaccines you can get that can help.
After my last bout with shingles, my doctor recommended I get vaccinated against shingles next time I come in for my physical. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m a little behind on my routine health care, but as soon as I can schedule an appointment with my doctor, I will be getting that shot.
As much as I feel like I can predict or anticipate a recurrence of shingles, I know it’s easy to miss or dismiss early symptoms. I just don’t want to go through that pain again, or even run the risk of getting a more severe case in the future.
I am older than 40 now, and aging does make your system more vulnerable. Having had shingles multiple times and actually having my doctor believe me has boosted my confidence when it comes to my own body, but some old part of me thinks I should be able to “tough it out” if I ignore the pain.
But with shingles, dismissing or ignoring your pain only increases the likelihood of not getting treatment fast enough.
That should be a lesson not just to patients like me, but also to our doctors.
Hopefully we can learn from our past, get proactive with our health, and our doctors will start taking pain more seriously including shingles pain.
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Shingles Chickenpox And Pregnancy
An attack of shingles during pregnancy will not harm the unborn baby. The mother is already carrying the varicella zoster virus before developing shingles and there is no increase in the risk of passing it on to the fetus if shingles develops. However, an attack of chickenpox during pregnancy can be serious and requires urgent medical attention.
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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Who Is Most Likely To Get Shingles Again
You’re more likely to get it again if:
- You had severe pain from shingles that lasted more than 30 days. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia .
- You are a woman.
- You were age 50 or older when you had shingles the first time.
- Your immune system is weak from conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV, or you take medicines that suppress your immune system.
Is Treating Relapse The Same
The approaches to treating shingles and any relapse are the same. In the latter case, healthcare providers may become particularly interested in isolating the cause of the weakened immunity thats causing the recurrence. That said, there is no outright cure for this disease, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms.
These approaches include:
- Antiviral medications, such as Zovirax , Famvir , and Valtrex , can help, especially if given within 72 hours of symptom onset.
- Over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol or Motrin or Advil can also help manage discomfort and pain.
- Compresses and creams are among other approaches that help relieve itching these include applying wet compresses, using calamine lotion, and taking colloidal oatmeal baths.
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If You Get The Shingles Vaccine Does This Mean Youre 100% Protected From Getting Shingles
No. Just like most vaccines, getting vaccinated with a shingles vaccine doesnt provide 100% protection from disease. However, getting the shingles vaccine reduces your risk of developing shingles.
Even if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. Also, youll be much less likely to develop postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that can follow a shingles outbreak.
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.
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