Can You Prevent Shingles
Prevention of shingles is a challenging topic because very few known modifiable factors change susceptibility.
A two-dose vaccine, Shingrix, can be administered to those aged 50 and older. The reported effectiveness is up to 97% in preventing shingles in 50-69-year-olds and up to 91% in the 70+ age group. According to the CDC, if you currently have shingles, have a moderate or severe illness, or are pregnant, you should wait to receive the vaccine. All pharmaceutical interventions have risks and benefits, requiring an informed decision based on your personal health considerations.
Household exposure to a child with chickenpox decreased the likelihood of developing shingles by 33% in the two years following exposure and 27% in the 10-20 years following exposure.
The below table summarizes what is known about shingles prevention and susceptibility:
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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.
What Is The Outcome For Someone Who Has Shingles
Most people get shingles once, but its possible to get it again.
If you have a healthy immune system, the blisters tend to clear in 7 to 10 days. The rash tends to go away completely within 2 to 4 weeks. The pain may last longer, but usually stops in 1 or 2 months.
For some people, the pain will last longer than the rash. When it does, its called postherpetic neuralgia , which can come and go or be constant. PHN can last for months, years, or the rest of your life. Treatment can help reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you continue to have pain. Treatment can help you feel more comfortable.
For anyone who has a shingles rash, the right self-care can help ease your discomfort. Youll find out what dermatologists recommend at, Shingles: Self-care.
ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention . About shingles. Page last reviewed 10/17/2017. Last accessed 4/1/2019.
Dooling KL, Guo A, et al. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018 67:103-8.
Madkan V, Sra K, et al. Human herpes viruses. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 1204-8.
Straus SE, Oxman MN. Varicella and herpes zoster. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatricks Dermatology in General Medicine . McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1885-98.
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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.
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.
Shingles: All You Need To Know
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ira Gurland.
Shingles will affect about a third of all Americans at some point in their lifetime. However, while many people have heard of the disease, fewer know much about it. Because shingles is so common and has the potential to produce painful complications, its important for everyone to understand the basics of this viral infection, including its close relationship with chickenpox.
Both diseases have the same origin, but there are important differences. Understanding these distinctions can help avoid confusion:
- Shingles and chickenpox are different infectious diseases, but both are caused by the same virus, called varicella-zoster .
- Chickenpox symptoms are the bodys first reaction to a varicella-zoster infection, presents as a severe skin rash, is more common in adolescence, and is highly contagious.
- Shingles symptoms are the bodys subsequent reaction to the same varicella-zoster infection that reactivates in the body, often many years later. It is more common in adults and presents as a painful rash as it strikes the nerves. You cant get shingles from someone who has shingles. However, you get chickenpox from someone who has shingles if you never had the chickenpox vaccine or chickenpox earlier in life.
How Can I Take Care Of Myself
- Take a pain-relief medicine such as acetaminophen. Take other medicine as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Put cool, moist washcloths on the rash.
- Rest in bed during the early stages if you have fever and other symptoms.
- Try not to let clothing or bed linens rub against the rash and irritate it.
- You develop worsening pain or fever.
- You develop a severe headache, stiff neck, hearing loss, or changes in your ability to think.
- The blisters show signs of bacterial infection, such as increasing pain or redness, or milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.
- The blisters are close to the eyes or you have pain in your eyes or trouble seeing.
- You have trouble walking.
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How Is It Treated
It is best to start treatment as soon as possible after you notice the rash. See your healthcare provider to discuss treatment with antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir. This medicine is most effective if you start taking it within the first 3 days of the rash. Antiviral medicine may speed your recovery and lessen the chance that the pain will last for a long time.
Your provider may also recommend or prescribe:
- medicine for pain
- antibacterial salves or lotions to help prevent bacterial infection of the blisters
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Headache Nausea And Flu
Other symptoms common to viral infections also develop with shingles. Some people eventually diagnosed with shingles report flu-like symptoms before the rash appears, including headaches and swelling of the lymph nodes. They may feel sluggish and experience muscle aches, upset stomach, or diarrhea. Because these symptoms are so common to lesser illnesses, many people dismiss them as signs of a passing bug or virus going around and do not seek medical attention until after the rash and blisters appear.
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.
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How Is Internal Shingles Treated
Even though shingles is a virus, this is a case where there are antiviral medications available by prescription. Thats why its important to see your doctor right away if you suspect you have shingles. Early treatment may reduce the risk of complications, like PHN. Serious complications require hospitalization.
Common antiviral medications for shingles include:
Depending on the location and severity of the shingles infection, steroids may also help. Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and pain-relieving medication such as acetaminophen or other prescription pain medication can help in easing pain experienced from shingles.
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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.
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How To Treat And Prevent Shingles
Shingles is treated using antiviral medications, such as:
To manage shingles pain, you can also use numbing creams like lidocaine, or place a cool, wet washcloth on your skin.
It’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible because, “people with shingles can develop long-term pain or itch after the shingles resolves if the virus does too much damage,” Kim says.
To stop yourself from spreading varicella-zoster to anyone else, try to cover up your rash when possible and avoid directly touching it.
The best way to prevent shingles is to get a shingles vaccine. The newest vaccine, called Shingrix, is 85% to 90% effective at preventing shingles in people who have already had chickenpox. If you have never had chickenpox, you will need to get the chickenpox vaccine instead.
How Long Do Shingles In The Eye Last
The outlook can vary depending on individual factors for instance, a person’s previous condition, the severity of the infection, and how quick and effective the treatment is.
According to the National Institute on Aging, this condition can take up to five weeks to clear.
Even after the herpes zoster ophthalmicus outbreak has settled, you may be advised to have regular eye checkups with your ophthalmologist. This is to ensure there are no secondary complications, such as glaucoma, scarring, and other long-term eye problems, that can develop due to shingles in the eye.
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What Helps Nerve Pain From Shingles
There is no one definitive answer to this question as each person experiences pain differently and responds to various treatments differently. However, some suggested treatments for nerve pain from shingles include over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, prescription pain medications, topical creams or ointments, nerve blocks, and anti-viral medications. Additionally, many people find relief from home remedies such as applying a cool compress to the affected area, taking warm baths, and using relaxation techniques.
It is a painful rash that appears on one side of the face or body and can last for several weeks. Taking antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir or famciclovir, should begin within 72 hours of your symptoms onset in order to reduce the severity of the infection. Every year, approximately one million Americans are affected by shingles, according to the CDC. The most common form of singlesâ complication is postherpetic neuralgia . PHN, or pain after an outbreak, is caused by nerve fibers that have been damaged during an outbreak. Medication with lidocaine patches is regarded as a first-choice treatment for postherpetic neuralgia. Antidepressants, Capsaicin, and Vitamin B12 injections are other medications that may be used by providers to treat PHN pain. The shingles vaccine shingrix protects against the varicella-zoster virus.
How Is Shingles Spread
A person must have already had chickenpox in the past to develop shingles. A person cannot get shingles from a person that has shingles. However, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox or had the chickenpox vaccine. The person exposed to the virus would develop chickenpox, not shingles. A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. The blister fluid is filled with virus particles. The virus is spread through direct contact with the rash or through breathing in virus particles that get mixed in the air. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. A person is not infectious before blisters appear or if pain persists after the rash is gone .
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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.
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.
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Why Is Shingles Painful
After first causing chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in the dorsal root ganglion, which is also the pain center of the spinal cord. Its where your sensory nerves meet up before heading to the brain. So, every portion of your body has a corresponding portion of the spinal cord that controls its pain. An area of skin whose sensory nerves form a single nerve root is called a dermatome.
According to Dr. Gurland, when that nerve root gets irritated by the shingles virus, it sends pain signals to the brain that make the corresponding dermatome or skin region hurt. This is called neuropathic pain, and its notoriously harder to treat than more common types of pain like a toothache.
Shingles pain tends to be worst on the more sensitive portions of the body. The face can be particularly painful, as a single nerve root there concentrates the sensitivity. A rash on the back or belly would be less painful because the nerve endings there are more diffuse, but it would still be unpleasant at best.
Typically, shingles is most painful within 4-5 days of the onset of symptoms and the blistering rash and then it can begin to dissipate as the blisters scab over, which can take 7-10 days . But for some patients, significant pain can last much longer weeks, months, and rarely it can lead to lifelong pain. The entire course of shingles usually takes from 3-5 weeks to recover and the rash to totally clear, but this can differ by person.
What Are Shingles In The Eye And How Do You Get Them
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. When this virus first enters your body, it causes chickenpox, which is common among children. The body can create immunity against the virus, thus preventing subsequent chickenpox attacks.
But even after treatment, the virus doesn’t go away completely. It stays dormant in the body for the rest of your life. If your immunity is weakened at any point, the virus may reactivate, and that’s when it causes shingles.
The active virus travels along the nerves, meaning that shingles can occur on any part of the body connected to nerves. Shingles commonly occur on the chest, back, abdomen, or legs, but you can also get it on your face and eyes.
Remember that having shingles in the eye doesn’t always mean eye involvement. It is estimated that 820% of people suffer from herpes zoster ophthalmicus and only 50% of them have ocular involvement.¹
Most people with herpes zoster ophthalmicus will experience a rash on one side of their face. The rash often starts as small, red bumps that turn into blisters. Eventually, the blisters will burst and form scabs, which can fall off and leave scars.
The eyes have a complex set of nerves and blood vessels, meaning shingles in the eyes can do a lot of damage. Of course, this will depend on the part of the eye that is affected.
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