Who Is At Risk For Shingles
About 1 in 3 Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Cases are more common in older adults, but doctors say even children get shingles.
Shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus , the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in their body. The virus can reactivate later, causing shingles.
“Not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles,” Wigand-Bolling noted.
Two other things to keep in mind: You cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles, the CDC says. However, you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine.
Can Shingles Be Prevented
There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.
Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
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.
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How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated
Treatments include lotions or creams and/or other medications not specifically used for pain, such as antidepressants or drugs for epilepsy. Regular pain relievers are not usually effective for this type of pain.
If your pain doesnt lessen, you might try therapies like nerve blocks or steroid injections near the area where the nerves exit the spine. Your provider might suggest an implantable nerve stimulator device for severe, ongoing pain that hasnt responded to other treatments.
Is There A Shingles Vaccination
In the UK there is a shingles vaccine immunisation programme for people aged 70 years to protect against herpes zoster. There is also a catch-up programme which offers the vaccine to anyone aged between 70 and 79 years who has previously missed out on immunisation. The vaccine is licensed for people aged over 50 years, and if you are not eligible for the vaccine on the NHS, your pharmacist may be able to provide the vaccine as a private service.
The chickenpox vaccine is not routinely given to children in the UK but is offered to people who are in close contact with someone who is particularly vulnerable to chickenpox or its complications – eg, people with a weakened immune system.
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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.
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.
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Can You Get Shingles In The Eye
Its most common to get the shingles rash on your chest, back or legs but you can get shingles on the face and eye, Rapuano says. About 15% of cases involve shingles in the eye area, he says.
However, theres a difference between having shingles around the eye and having shingles in the eye, which doctors refer to as eye involvement, Rapuano says. A patient can have shingles around the eye area without the eye itself being involved, he says.
About half of people who have shingles on the forehead or nose will also have eye involvement.
Ocular shingles typically occurs in one eye on the same side of the face as the rash. It typically occur after the shingles rash on the body has resolved, Rapuano says.
A patient who has had shingles on the face may feel like theyre healing well but then notice a symptom such as redness in the eye. When this happens, patients need to see an eye doctor right away, Rapuano says.
Other Health Problems Due To Shingles
Some people develop other health problems after the shingles rash clears, which include:
Postherpetic neuralgia : This is the most common. Occurring where you had the rash, PHN can cause constant tingling, burning, and pain. For others, the pain comes and goes.
Whether the pain is constant or intermittent, it can go on for a long time. You can have PHN for months, years, or the rest of your life. There is no way to know how long it will last.
The pain caused by PHN can become so severe that it interferes with your life, making everyday activities painful. A musician may no longer be able to play an instrument. Some people cannot walk comfortably. It may be difficult to bathe or get dressed. You may have trouble sleeping.
How to prevent PHN: If you have shingles, you can greatly reduce your risk of PHN by getting treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash.
Get treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash
Taking antiviral medication within 3 days of getting the shingles rash can: Reduce your risk of developing PHN Ease symptoms of shingles Clear the shingles rash more quickly
Other health problems that can develop after the shingles rash clears include:
Blindness or loss of some eyesight
Although rare, some people die of shingles.
Treatment can prevent these complications.
You can find out if you have a greater risk of developing shingles at, Shingles: Causes.
Can Shingles Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccination. Vaccinate your children for chickenpox. This vaccine reduces their risk for getting chickenpox. You cant get shingles unless youve had chickenpox first.
When you are older, get the shingles vaccine. It is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older. It can prevent shingles. People who have had shingles should get the vaccine to help stop the disease from reoccurring. Common side effects of the vaccine are headache, plus redness, swelling, itching, and soreness at the injection site.
The shingles vaccine is not recommended for anyone who:
- Has had an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
- Has an allergy to any component of the shingles vaccine
- Has a weakened immune system due to conditions such as leukemia, HIV, or AIDS
- Is receiving treatment for cancer
- Is being treated with drugs that suppress their immune system, including high-dose steroids
- Is pregnant or might become pregnant within 4 weeks of getting the vaccine
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of shingles, especially if they involve your face, see your doctor or ophthalmologist right away.
Doctors can usually diagnose a shingles rash by performing a physical exam. Your doctor can also take a scraping of your skin rash and send it to a lab for examination under a microscope.
Its particularly important to seek treatment if you have a compromised immune system. Early treatment can help cut down on your chances for serious complications.
Shingles will have to run its course, but quite a few treatment options are available. These include:
- antiviral drugs
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.
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.
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How Long Is Shingles Contagious
Similar to chickenpox, shingles is a contagious illness. But, before we address how long you may be contagious, we need to talk about how shingles spreads which might actually surprise you.
“Shingles is indeed contagious, but it can only be spread to people who haven’t yet had chickenpox, or the chickenpox vaccine. In these cases, the shingles virus typically spreads via direct contact with the opened blisters of your rash. After being infected, a person doesn’t develop shingles, though he or she develops chickenpox,” explains Dr. Brown.
Since you can’t really know who is and who isn’t susceptible to chickenpox, it’s important to take safety measures if you have shingles.
“When you have shingles, you’re considered contagious until your open sores crust and scab over. This generally takes between 7 to 10 days,” says Dr. Brown. “Depending on where your rash develops on your body and where you work, you may be able to return to work before your shingles dry up.”
Before your rash dries up, Dr. Brown recommends the following to prevent spreading shingles to others:
- Make sure your rash is covered with gauze
- Limit interaction with other people if your shingles rash is on your face
- Consult with your doctor about returning to work if you work in a medical setting or nursing home, as well as if you interact with people frequently while at work
Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used
Yes. The CDC, however, recommends Zostavax for adults age 60 and older, but not routinely for people aged 50 to 59. Zostavax is given as a single-dose shot versus the two-dose shot for Shingrix. Zostavax is less effective than Shingrix in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia .
You can consider Zostavax if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable because of supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because its a weakened live vaccine, it may be dangerous if you have cancer, HIV, or take steroids, chemotherapy or other medications that suppress your immune system. Ask your healthcare provider if the Zostavax vaccine is an option for you.
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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 Can You Prevent Spreading The Virus
You cant give shingles to someone else, but the varicella-zoster virus is very contagious. If you have shingles and you expose someone else who has not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, you can give them the virus. Theyll get chickenpox, not shingles, but this puts them at risk for shingles later on.
Youre contagious when your blisters are oozing, or after they break and before they crust over. Do the following to avoid spreading the virus to others:
- Keep your rash covered, especially when the blisters are active.
- Try not to touch, rub, or scratch your rash.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Avoid contact with people whove never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, especially:
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Shingles & Chest Pain
Hi I have had shingles for 3 weeks now a patch on my back shoulder and now on my scalp. The initial rash on my back has just begun to blister. This evening I have started having mild chest pain which worsens when I breathe in. I’m just wondering if this is associated with shingles and has anyone else experienced this? Thanks
1 like, 9 replies
Posted 7 years ago
Hi Sarah. Did you get the anti-viral drug within the first 3 days? I’d definitely have it checked. I’d hate to see more eruptions. I never broke out more, but I have that post herpatic neuralgia that will probably never go away. It’s tolerable, but I wish I didn’t have it. I heard that stress can bring on more eruptions, so try your best to stay calm. Are you on any other meds?
Posted 7 years ago
Yes I had a 7 day course of anti viral, as soon as I noticed the rash but not sure how long it was there before! I went back to work a week later and that’s when I had the 2 further eruptions which I think were stress related! It’s so frustrating just when u think it’s going! I’ve not suffered too bad, compared to some stories I’ve heard. Thanks for your reply Becky
How To Prevent Shingles: Get Vaccinated
Two vaccines may help prevent the shingles virus: the chickenpox vaccine and the shingles vaccine. The shingles vaccine is approved for adults ages 50 and older and for those 18 and older with weakened immune systems or at increased risk of herpes zoster because of a disease or treatment, according to the CDC.
Per the CDC, talk to your doctor about getting a shingles vaccination if you are 50 or older or if you have the following risk factors:
- You have cancer, especially leukemia or lymphoma.
- You are a bone marrow or solid organ transplant recipient.
- You take immunosuppressive medications, including steroids, chemotherapy, or transplant-related medications.
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Eczema Can Cause Red Itchy Skin With Bumps
Like shingles, a skin allergy can also cause red, bumpy, itchy skin, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology . These reactions include eczema, hives, and contact dermatitis. Eczema can cause dry, red, itchy, irritated skin, per the ACAAI. Small, oozing, fluid-filled bumps may also appear, especially when the skin is infected. Eczema is most common on the face, inside the elbows and behind the knees, and on the hands and feet, per MedlinePlus. There is no cure for eczema, but treatments can help manage the condition.
What Is The Outlook
If you have a particularly severe case of shingles, it could take months to go away. It can also become a long-term problem for some people. If you have postherpetic neuralgia, you may need to see your doctor more often.
Complications that involve the eye or ear may require ongoing care, especially if you have lingering vision or hearing problems.
Most people have shingles only once, but it can recur. This is more likely to happen if you have a weakened immune system.
If you havent had any major complications, your symptoms should clear up within a matter of weeks with few, if any, lasting effects.
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S Of The Shingles Rash
If you have a rash of blisters on your skin or a rash that looks like any shown below, see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis. If you have shingles, its important to get treatment, preferably within 2 to 3 days.
If youve had the rash for longer than 2 to 3 days, its still important to see your doctor.
A typical shingles rash
Doctors often refer to this rash as the shingles band because it looks like a band that appears on one area of your body, as shown here.
A rash on one side of the body
A key that you have shingles is that the rash only develops on one side of your body.
Close-up of a shingles rash
The shingles rash often causes a cluster of tiny blisters. You may notice that the skin beneath the blisters is red and inflamed, as shown here.
The rash will also feel painful.
Blistering shingles rash on a man’s chest
Although the rash can begin in one area, you may notice that a few scattered blisters develop in other areas, as shown here.
Shingles rash on the palm of a man’s hand
While shingles tends to develop on your body or face, it can appear anywhere on your skin.
Natural Treatments To Try
Natural treatments can also be used to sooth shingles and reduce itching under the breast, including:
- Lukewarm colloidal oatmeal bath. Avoid using hot or cold water in your bath. Cold water can increase skin sensitivity, while hot water can increase pain and slow healing of the blisters.
- Cool wet compresses. Apply cool compresses several times daily to cool skin.
- Topically applied witch hazel. Apply using a spray bottle or use in a cool compress.
- Baking soda paste. Mix baking soda with water until a paste-like consistency forms. Leave on the skin for up to 20 minutes. Rinse off with cool or warm water.
If youre over 50, the best way to prevent shingles is to get the shingles vaccine. At one time, the Zostavax vaccine was your only option, but it is no longer available.
The CDC currently recommends Shingrix . Its a two-dose vaccine that is more than 90 percent effective against shingles.
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