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How Long Does Shingles Take To Heal

Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body

How to treat shingles

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.

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.

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 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.

Are There Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System To Help Lessen The Chances Of Developing Shingles

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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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How Long Does It Take For Shingles To Progress

Shingles progresses into blisters over three to five days and begins to crust over after seven to ten days. The rash is preceded by a prodromal phase lasting 48-72 hours or longer, consisting of throbbing pain and numbness in the area affecting the nerve. Once the rash blisters, it can last another three to five days before the lesions scab over.

After the lesions crust over, it may take two to four weeks to heal completely. At this time, pain may still be present. The most painful stage of shingles is when you have fluid-filled blisters. This usually occurs three to five days after the rash first appears.

Can You Spread Shingles Over Your Own Body

Shingles cannot be spread over different areas of your body. For example, if you have an active shingles rash on your back, the fluid from the blisters cannot cause a new rash on your arm.

However, the fluid could potentially spread VZV to someone else if theyve never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine.

One caveat here is that some people can develop disseminated herpes zoster, which is when the shingles virus causes a rash over multiple areas of the body. This can happen in people who have weakened immune systems from autoimmune disease, cancer, or immunosuppressant medications.

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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.

Skin Care And Itch Relief For Shingles

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To relieve itching and discomfort, try:

  • A cool, wet compresses on the affected skin
  • Soothing baths and lotions, such as colloidal oatmeal bath, starch baths, or calamine lotion
  • Zostrix, a cream that contains capsaicin
  • Antihistamines to reduce itching

Keep your skin clean. Throw away bandages you use to cover your skin sores. Throw away or wash in hot water clothing that has contact with your skin sores. Wash your sheets and towels in hot water.

While your skin sores are still open and oozing, avoid all contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox, especially pregnant women.

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What Do Shingles Scabs Look Like

Shingles scabs develop when your blisters dry up. The blisters that form on the rash usually start to scab within 7 to 10 days. These scabs are usually dry and flat and can be red, brown, or yellowish in color.

Since shingles blisters affect just one side of the body, the scabs will only appear on one side as well. This is different from most other skin conditions, which typically affect both sides of the body.

Other common skin disorders might cause peeling or white patches . Shingles scabs usually dont have these characteristics.

The following images show what shingles scabs look like:

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
  • corticosteroids

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How To Prevent Transmission

You cant catch shingles, and you cant give shingles to someone else. But you can give others chickenpox.

After you have chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus stays dormant in your body. If this virus reactivates, shingles occurs. Its possible to transmit this virus to others who arent immune while the shingles rash is still active. You are contagious to others until all areas of the rash are dried up and crusted over.

To catch the varicella-zoster virus from you, a person has to have direct contact with your rash blisters.

You can help prevent your transmission of the varicella-zoster virus by:

  • keeping the rash loosely covered
  • practicing frequent handwashing
  • avoiding contact with people who may not have had chickenpox or who havent been vaccinated against chickenpox

Last medically reviewed on August 24, 2017

10 sourcescollapsed

  • Cohen KR, et al. . Presentation and management of herpes zoster in the geriatric population.

What Are The Complications Of Shingles

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Symptoms of shingles usually dont last longer than 3 to 5 weeks. However, complications can happen. The main complications that can result from shingles include:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia . The most common complication of shingles is called postherpetic neuralgia . This continuous, chronic pain lasts even after the skin lesions have healed. The pain may be severe in the area where the blisters were present. The affected skin may be very sensitive to heat and cold. If you had severe pain during the active rash or have impaired senses, you are at increased risk for PHN. The elderly are also at greater risk. Early treatment of shingles may prevent PHN. Pain relievers and steroid treatment may be used to treat the pain and inflammation. Other treatments include antiviral drugs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents.
  • Bacterial infection. A bacterial infection of the skin where the rash happens is another complication. Rarely, infections can lead to more problems, such as tissue death and scarring. When an infection happens near or on the eyes, a corneal infection can happen. This can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.

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Are There Home Remedies For Treating Shingles

Although shingles will usually go away on its own once it has run its course and the scabs have healed, you can take steps at home to help alleviate pain and discomfort.

Some home remedies for treating shingles include:

  • taking cool oatmeal baths
  • applying calamine lotion to soothe your skin
  • applying cool compresses to the blisters
  • wearing loose clothing made from cotton or linen

When possible, try also doing activities that help take your mind off the pain. These activities can include watching a TV series, reading a book, listening to music, or talking with a friend.

Telling a family member or friend about how the pain is affecting you can also help.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • Ive had chickenpox. Am I at risk of developing shingles?
  • What is the best treatment for my shingles?
  • The pain from shingles isnt going away. What can I do to make myself more comfortable?
  • Im on treatment for shingles. When should I call my doctor if things dont get better?
  • I have shingles and my children havent had the chickenpox vaccine. Should I get them vaccinated?
  • Is the shingles vaccine right for me?
  • Are there any risks associated with the shingles vaccine?
  • Will my post-herpetic neuralgia ever go away?
  • If Ive never had the chickenpox, should I still get the shingles vaccination?

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Who Is More Likely To Suffer From Herpes Zoster

Some people are more at risk of getting the virus, such as the following:

  • People who have had chickenpox before, as the varicella-zoster virus can cause both diseases.
  • Poor immune system people like older people and children.
  • People who have other health conditions such as diabetes, HIV, skin cancer, etc.
  • In addition, stress or taking certain medications such as steroids can also weaken the immune system and worse this condition.

Do You Need To Stay Away From Children People Who Are Pregnant Have Cancer Or Anyone With A Weak Immune System After You Get The Zostavax Vaccine

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According to the CDC, its safe to be around babies and young children, pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system after you get the Zostavax vaccine. Even though the Zostavax vaccine contains a weakened live varicella-zoster virus, the CDC says theres no documented case of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the Zostavax vaccine. And remember: You cant get shingles unless youve already had chickenpox.

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Tingling Pain Or Numbness

During the first stage of shingles, before anything appears on your skin, a particular area of your body may begin to feel different. When a shingles outbreak is starting, you may feel itching, burning, or pain,” Kim says. Often you will feel this on only one side of your body.

The initial signs of shingles may feel different for each person. In some cases, shingles can cause intense sensitivity, making it painful to even wear clothes over your skin, while in other cases, your skin may feel numb.

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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When To Seek Care

Early shingles symptoms, such as pain or flu-like feelings, are not obvious signs of a shingles outbreak.

Once a rash appears, you should see your primary care physician or a dermatologist. A trained eye can often diagnose shingles by visually inspecting the rash.

If you have shingles, you may never experience the extreme pain that can often come with it. You may only feel itching and some minor discomfort.

Even without the painful symptoms of shingles, its recommended that you see a healthcare professional and start antiviral treatment within 72 hours of a rashs appearance.

Its especially important to seek prompt medical care if a rash forms near one or both eyes. Shingles in the eye may cause permanent vision loss.

You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox

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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.

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What You Can Do To Help Recover From Shingles

There is no cure for shingles, but there are medications, including antiviral medications, such as acyclovir or valacyclovir, to help fight the infection.

While your shingles is active, you should:

  • Rest and relax. Try moderate activities, such as walking and listening to music that can help take your mind off the pain. For severe pain, your doctor may prescribe narcotic pain relievers, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Keep the rash clean and dry. Do not cover it or use ointments, which can prevent the blisters from bursting and beginning to scab over.
  • Try cool compresses, calamine lotion, or an oatmeal bath to ease the itching and pain of the rash.
  • Dont share bedding, clothing or towels in order to avoid spreading the infection while you have blisters.

There are effective vaccinations available to prevent shingles, so if you have had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting protected from shingles.

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.

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How Common Is Shingles

Currently, around 2030% of people experience shingles at some point in their life.

The U.S. introduced a chickenpox vaccine in 1995, and the number of chickenpox cases has dropped by around 7685% since then. This means that, over time, the number of people with the VZV in their system is likely to decrease.

Shingles may become less prevalent as children who received the chickenpox vaccine grow into adulthood.

How Does It Occur

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If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for later developing shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays in your body. It moves to the roots of your nerve cells and becomes inactive . Later, if the virus becomes active again, shingles is the name given to the symptoms it causes.

What exactly causes the virus to become active is not known. A weakened immune system seems to allow reactivation of the virus. This may occur with normal aging, immune-suppressing medicines, or another illness, or after major surgery. It can also happen as a complication of cancer or AIDS or treatment of these illnesses. Chronic use of steroid drugs may trigger shingles. The virus may also become active again after the skin is injured or sunburned. Emotional stress seems to be a common trigger as well.

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How Long Will The Effects Last

The rash from shingles will heal in 1 to 3 weeks and the pain or irritation will usually go away in 3 to 5 weeks. When shingles occurs on the head or scalp, the symptoms usually go away eventually, but it may take many months.

If the virus damages a nerve, you may have pain, numbness, or tingling for months or even years after the rash is healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. This chronic condition is most likely to occur after a shingles outbreak in people over 50 years old. Taking antiviral medicine as soon as the shingles is diagnosed may help prevent this problem.

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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