What Can Be Done To Prevent The Spread Of Shingles
A vaccine for chickenpox is available and it is hoped that individuals immunized against chickenpox will be less likely to develop shingles in later life.
The risk of spreading the virus that causes shingles is low if the rash is covered. People with shingles should keep the rash covered, not touch or scratch the rash, and wash their hands often to prevent the spread of shingles. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.
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.
How Do You Prevent Shingles
Vaccination is a safe and effective way to protect against shingles in most people. The shingles vaccine should not be given to people who are immunocompromised.
For more information on shingles immunisation, see Shingles immunisation service.
Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox. The risk of spreading the disease is low if the rash is covered. When the rash has developed crusts, you are no longer infectious.
If you have shingles, you should:
- wash your hands often to prevent the virus from spreading.
Avoid contact with these people until the rash has developed crusts:
- pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
- premature or low birthweight babies
- children who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
- people with weakened immune systems, such as people who:
- have had chemotherapy
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What Can I Do For The Pain
To help with the pain of shingles, your doctor might have you take an over-the-counter pain medicine. This could include acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
Applying a medicated anti-itch lotion to the blisters might reduce the pain and itching. Placing cool compresses soaked in water mixed with white vinegar on the blisters and sores might also help.
If shingles causes severe pain, your doctor might prescribe a stronger pain medicine.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will do a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history, specifically about whether you have ever had chickenpox.
Your healthcare provider will likely know right away that it is shingles based on the unique rash. The rash usually appears one area on one side of the body or face. It appears as red spots, small fluid- or pus-filled vesicles, or scabs.
The healthcare provider may also take skin scrapings for testing.
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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.
What Can You Do To Prevent Shingles
While you may not be able to control certain factors that might trigger shingles, there are strategies you can use to prevent shingles. The most important is vaccination. Research shows that the shingles vaccine Shingrix is 90% effective in preventing an outbreak of shingles. Even if you do get shingles after being vaccinated, Shingrix greatly reduces your risk of developing persistent pain in the affected area, known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
In addition to getting vaccinated, its always a good idea to take steps to keep your body healthy, such as choosing healthy foods, staying active, and getting sufficient sleep. Its not clear if healthy lifestyle habits like these can prevent shingles, but even if they dont, theyre worthwhile because they will benefit your body in many other ways.
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Diagnoses And Treatment Of Shingles Without Rash
If you note that you are suffering from symptoms typically associated with shingles but without any rash it is important to tell your doctor right away. While you may not develop a rash, patients will still feel the tingling, burning sensation associated with the virus moving from the nerves to the skin. This sensation will typically only be on one side of the body. If you have had the chickenpox virus you will need to talk with your doctor to confirm your diagnosis. Because there are no blisters to check, your doctor may perform a blood test to check for the shingles virus. This will also help them rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.
Once it is determined that you are suffering a shingles outbreak, your doctor will determine what level of care is appropriate. Many patients can be treated with medications like Valacyclovir or Acyclovir and home remedies such as cool baths and cool/wet compresses. In severe cases patients may need to stay in the hospital for treatment.
Could It Be Shingles
If youre an older adult and experiencing a blistery rash, the most likely answer is that youve got shingles, a.k.a. herpes zoster, which affects one in three people in their lifetime, according to the CDC. Shingles is whats known as a reactivation virus that usually affects older adults, says Dr. Jones Lopez. Basically, once youve had chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus stays in your body. After the initial infection, the virus goes into dormant state for potentially decades, he says. Much later in life, when your immunity goes down, it can reactivate as shingles.
Unlike a chickenpox rash, the shingles rash is usually confined to a specific area of the body and appears in a single band, rather than spreading indiscriminately. It typically happens somewhere on the chest or back, says Dr. Jones-Lopez, although the head and other parts of the body can sometimes be affected. The key thing that distinguishes the shingles rash is that it doesnt cross the midline. If it spreads across your body, its not shingles. For example, if youve got a rash on left side of your face but another on the right side of your back, you can probably rule out this illness.
In addition to a rash , you may have some pain, itching, or tingling on your skin. You may also have flu-like symptoms . Like chickenpox, shingles rashes may itchbut they are mostly known for causing pain.
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Rebooting The Nervous System
Its like restarting a computer, Dr. Rosenquist says. When its running slowly or acting weird, you restart it. We are trying to turn that nerve off. When it comes back on, hopefully, it will send an appropriate transmission as opposed to a pain transmission.
Treatmentoptions for PHN patients include:
Patientswith refractory PHN rarely need opioid pain medication. However,you should be evaluated by a physician. We cant make a blanket statement abouttreatment. It is individualized, she says.
Can I Give Shingles To Others
No one can catch shingles from you. But the virus can be spread to a person who has never had chickenpox. The virus lives in the blisters that shingles causes. It can be spread until the blisters are completely healed. If you have blisters that have not crusted over yet, you should stay away from:
- Anyone who has never had chickenpox
- Babies under 12 months old
- Very sick people
Tell your doctor if you live with children who have not had chickenpox. They may need to be vaccinated.
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How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Shingles
A dermatologist can often diagnose shingles by looking at the rash on your skin.
If there is any question about whether you have shingles, your dermatologist will scrape a bit of fluid from a blister. This will be sent to a lab where a doctor will look at the fluid under a high-powered microscope.
When you have shingles, the fluid contains the virus that causes shingles. Seeing the virus confirms that you have shingles.
Your dermatologist will also ask about your symptoms. Shingles tends to be painful.
When the shingles rash spreads to an eye, it can affect your eyesight
You can reduce this risk by seeing an ophthalmologist immediately.
Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles
Shingles usually affects only a small section on one side of your body and may include:
- Pain, burning, tingling, itching, numbness or extreme sensitivity to touch
- Red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain and lasts two to three weeks before scabbing over and healing
- Sensitivity to light
- Malaise a general feeling of unease and discomfort
Pain usually is the first symptom of shingles. For some, it can be intense. Depending on the location of the pain, sometimes it can be mistaken for a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys. Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.
The shingles rash commonly occurs on one side of the torso. It often appears as a band of blisters that wraps from the middle of the back to the breastbone, following the path of the nerve where the virus has been dormant. However, the rash can occur around one eye, or on the neck or face.
Shingles generally lasts between two and six weeks. Most people get shingles only once, but it’s possible to get it two or more times.
See a health care professional as soon as symptoms of shingles appear, especially if:
A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. This happens through direct contact with the rash’s open sores. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox not shingles. Chickenpox can be dangerous for some people.
- Anyone with a weak immune system
- Women who are pregnant
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Can Shingles Cause Chronic Pain
In some people, the pain of shingles may linger for months or even years after the rash has healed. This pain, due to damaged nerves in and beneath the skin, is known as postherpetic neuralgia. Others feel a chronic itch in the area where the rash once was. In severe cases, the pain or itching may be bad enough to cause insomnia, weight loss, or depression.
Myth: Shingles Affects Only Elderly People
While its true that shingles is more common in older people, the ailment can also occur in healthy young people even children. People whose immunity has been weakened by HIV/AIDS, cancer or treatment with certain drugs are at increased risk of getting shingles.
The first symptom of shingles is usually pain, tingling, or a burning sensation on one side. Red patches and blisters typically appear on a narrow area from the spine around the sides of the body to the belly or chest.
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Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox
No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.
Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.
Can you get chickenpox more than once?
Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.
What Are The Complications Associated With Shingles
Shingles is not usually dangerous to healthy individuals although it can cause great misery during an attack. Anyone with shingles on the upper half of their face, no matter how mild, should seek medical care at once because of the risk of damage to the eye. Very rarely, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation or death. For about one person in five, severe pain can continue even after the rash clears up. This pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia. As people get older, they are more likely to develop post-herpetic neuralgia, and it is more likely to be severe.
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Causes Of Shingles Without Rash
Shingles is a disease caused by the presence of the varicella-zoster virus in the tissue of the nervous system. This virus enters the body when a patient catches chickenpox. It remains inactive in the tissue for years before resurfacing as the shingles disease. Doctors are unsure what causes the disease to become active again, though it appears that adults with weak immune systems are more prone to these outbreaks than others. As the varicella-zoster virus becomes active again it will travel through the nerve pathways to the skin, which causes a sore skin reaction.
Is There A Treatment For Shingles
Several antiviral medicines, acyclovir , valacyclovir , and famciclovir , are available to treat shingles. These medications should be started as soon as possible after the rash appears and will help shorten the illness and decrease how severe the illness is. Pain medicine may also help with pain caused by shingles. Call your provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.
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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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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.
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Shingles: Not Just A Band Of Blisters
Shingles is a common condition in which the virus that causes chickenpox reactivates after years of lying dormant in your body. As the virus reactivates, it causes pain and tingling and eventually a rash of short-lived blisters.
“Shingles normally isn’t a serious condition, but in some people the rash can cause an eye infection,” explains Jeffery Wheeler, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System family physician. “Vaccines can help reduce the risk of shingles, while early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.”
One complication is called postherpetic neuralgia, which can cause the skin to remain painful and sensitive to touch for months or years. When identified early, shingles can be treated with prescription medications that help shorten the infection and reduce the risk of complications.
Dr. Wheeler says signs and symptoms of shingles may include:
- A feeling of pain, burning, tingling, itching, numbness or extreme sensitivity in a limited area of your body
- A red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain and lasts two to three weeks before scabbing over and healing
When Should I Get The Shingles Vaccine
The current shingles vaccine is a safe, easy, and more effective way to prevent shingles than the previous vaccine. In fact, it is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. Most adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, which is given in two doses. You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies.
You should get the shingles vaccine if you:
- Have already had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or shingles
- Received the prior shingles vaccine called Zostavax
- Dont remember having had chickenpox
Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
You should not get vaccinated if you:
- Currently have shingles
- Are sick or have a fever
- Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the shingles vaccine
If you are unsure about the above criteria or have other health concerns, talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine.
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