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 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.
Who Should Avoid Contact With Shingles
One way of preventing the spread is to avoid contact with people who have shingles blisters.
If a person gets chickenpox, they usually only have it once. This is for shingles. A person is unlikely to have shingles more than once, unless they have a weakened immune system, which may result from a health issue or immunosuppressant treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Anyone with shingles blisters should especially avoid contact with:
- Pregnant people who have never had chickenpox or its vaccination: If chickenpox develops during pregnancy, especially 521 days before birth, it can be dangerous for the fetus.
- Children who have not had chickenpox or its vaccination: Until a child is vaccinated, they should avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles blisters.
- People with weakened immune systems, such as:
- infants born early or with a low birth weight
- people with HIV, leukemia, lymphoma, or other health issues that have this immune effect
- people who take immunosuppressant medications, such as chemotherapy
- people who have had organ transplants
After contact with the varicella virus, a person in any of the above groups may be unable to ward off the infection. Their risk of developing chickenpox, then shingles and its complications may be higher.These groups are also likely to have the illnesses for longer, and the symptoms may be more severe.
increase the risk of shingles.
Ways of managing the symptoms include:
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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
Shingles The Facts And The Myths
Myth: You can catch shingles from someone with chickenpox.
Fact: Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus within your body, so you cannot catch shingles from anyone else. However, if someone has not had chickenpox they may catch it from someone who has shingles.
Myth: Shingles only affects old or ill people.
Fact: It is possible for anyone who has had chickenpox to develop shingles. The chance of developing shingles are very low before the age of 50, although young and otherwise healthy people do sometimes develop shingles. The immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles increases as we get older.
Myth: I cant get shingles because I cant remember having chickenpox.
Fact: If you have definitely never had chickenpox you cant develop shingles. However, some people dont know whether or not they had chickenpox as a child, because the infection may have been so mild it didnt cause any obvious symptoms. You can still develop shingles even if you have only had a very mild case of chickenpox.
Myth: Ive already had shingles so I cant get it again.
Fact: Unfortunately, some people can suffer from more than one episode of shingles. Why this happens is not fully understood, but as we age they immune system does weaken, which may explain why we are more likely to develop shingles the older we are and why it sometimes returns.
Where can I find more information?
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.
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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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.
Is There A Vaccine For Shingles
There are two shingles vaccines currently available, Shingrix and Zostavax. Shingrix vaccine, a newer vaccine, is preferred over Zostavax for the prevention of shingles and its complications. Two doses of Shingrix given 2 to 6 months apart are recommended for healthy adults 50 years of age and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults who have previously received Zostavax. A single dose of Zostavax may still be used to prevent shingles in certain cases for healthy adults 60 years and older.
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Are There Complications Of Shingles
Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone, including:
- Brain inflammation or facial paralysis if it affects certain nerves
- Eye problems and vision loss if your rash was in or around your eye
- Pain that lasts long after the outbreak, called postherpetic neuralgia. It affects up to 1 in 5 people who get shingles.
How You Catch The Varicella
Shingles is not contagious. You cant catch shingles from someone. However, a person with shingles can pass along VZV to people who have never contracted chickenpox.
VZV can be transmitted from a person with shingles to someone who has never had chickenpox via direct contact with fluid from shingles rash or blisters. Its not possible to pass along VZV before shingles blisters appear or after lesions crust over.
However, shingles is a lot less contagious than chickenpox. By covering up your rash, you can prevent the spread of the virus.
Shingles usually happens many years after an initial chickenpox infection. The first signs of a reactivation of the virus are malaise, fever, a localized tingling or burning sensation, and pain. Within a few days a one-sided rash forms on the face or body. It can takes up to 10 days for the rash and blisters to crust over. It will clear up entirely several weeks later.
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.
What Should I Do About An Exposure To Varicella
If you have been in contact with someone with chickenpox or shingles, or if you have a rash-associated illness that might be chickenpox or shingles, discuss your situation with your healthcare provider. Blood tests may be done to see if you have become infected with the virus or have had the disease in the past. If you are pregnant and not immune and have been exposed to chickenpox or shingles, call your healthcare provider immediately. Your provider may choose to treat you with a medication called varicella-zoster immune globulin , but in order for this medication to be most helpful, it needs to be given as soon as possible after your exposure to varicella.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
Shingles usually starts as a rash on one side of the face or body. The rash starts as blisters that scab after seven to ten days. The rash usually clears within two to four weeks.
Before the rash develops, there is often pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach.
Is A Vaccine Available To Prevent Shingles
Two vaccines are available in the United States to reduce your chance of developing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. One vaccine, Zostavax®, has been available since 2006. The second vaccine, Shingrix®, has been available since 2017. Shingrix is recommended as the preferred vaccine by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, a group of medical and public health experts.
Shingrix is given as a two-dose shot in your upper arm. You should receive the second dose two to six months after receiving the first. Shingrix has been shown to be more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. Its effectiveness remains above 85% for at least four years after receiving the vaccine.
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How To Avoid Getting Shingles More Than Once
Getting the shingles vaccine protects you against shinglesand from a shingles recurrence too.
Zostavax, approved in 2006, was once the only shingles vaccine available to older individuals. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the US.
Another vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017 by the FDA for adults 50 and older, and its said to be over 90% effective, according to the CDC.
This new vaccine is a very important one for all of us to consider, Dr. Cutler said. In my practice we routinely recommend this vaccine to everyone over 50.
With the possibility that shingles can recur, experts urge anyone who has had shingles to be vaccinated as well. I believe that its imperative that you work with your health care provider to get vaccinated as soon as youre in this age range or have had shingles, Dr. Cutler said.
Shingrix is given in two doses, scheduled two to six months apart. Its important to note that you should also get Shingrix even if you had Zostavax, the older shingles vaccine, Dr. Cutler added. You should also get it if you dont know if you had chickenpox as a child.
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How Is Shingles Treated
There is no cure for shingles, but antiviral medicine may relieve the symptoms and help prevent complications. See your doctor for a prescription of antiviral medicines as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Treatment should be started within 3 days of the shingles rash appearing.
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.
Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.
There are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following.
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You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
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
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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.
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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What If Youre Over 50 And Have Never Had Chickenpox
If youre over 50 and confident that youve never had exposure to chickenpox, a primary doctor can run a blood test to determine your level of chickenpox immunity.
If it turns out that youve never been exposed to chickenpox, consider getting vaccinated against the virus to protect against any future exposure.
Most adults between 30 and 50 years old dont need to worry about racing to get either the chickenpox or shingles vaccine.
Consider getting the shingles vaccine before turning 50 if you:
- work in an industry that might have higher exposure to chickenpox, like healthcare or teaching
Do not get a chickenpox vaccine if you:
- previously had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or any ingredient of the vaccine
- are moderately or severely ill
Talk with a doctor before getting a chickenpox vaccine if you:
- have HIV or another condition that affects your immune system
- are taking a medication that affects your immune system for 2 weeks or longer
- have cancer of any kind or are taking medications for cancer
- have recently had a blood transfusion
Before shingles appear, youll normally develop:
- pain in the body
The shingles rash typically starts as a single strip rash around the side of the body. It may eventually break out to another nearby area if you spread it by scratching.