Tuesday, June 25, 2024

How To Care For Shingles Blisters

What You Can Do To Help Recover From Shingles

How to treat 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.

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?

How Long Does Shingles Last In The Elderly

Shingles is a viral infection that follows a varicella-zoster infection, although it can take decades for symptoms of the secondary disease to emerge. The condition presents as a painful and blistering rash, but it is not life-threatening.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there are nearly one million cases in the United States each year, and almost half of those cases are in older adults over age 60. Some people only see one instance of the illness, while others have recurring symptoms, but 30 percent of Americans will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles

Usually, shingles develops on just one side of the body or face, and in a small area. The most common place for shingles to occur is in a band around one side of the waistline.

Most people with shingles have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Tingling, itching, or numbness of the skin
  • Chills, fever, headache, or upset stomach

For some people, the symptoms of shingles are mild. They might just have some itching. For others, shingles can cause intense pain that can be felt from the gentlest touch or breeze. Its important to talk with your doctor if you notice any shingles symptoms.

If you notice blisters on your face, see your doctor right away because this is an urgent problem. Blisters near or in the eye can cause lasting eye damage and blindness. Hearing loss, a brief paralysis of the face, or, very rarely, inflammation of the brain can also occur.

What Does It Mean To Let Shingles Run Its Course

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This refers to the typical course a shingles rash takes, even with antiviral treatment:

  • A person may develop a tingling sensation or pain in a certain area on the skin, most commonly on the waistline. This may last for several days.
  • Next, a rash develops in the area. The skin turns red, with fluid-filled bumps . Its during this time that a shingles rash can spread the VZV to another person who hasnt had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
  • After 1 to 2 weeks, these fluid-filled bumps start to crust over. At this point, the rash can no longer spread to other people. It can then take 1 to 2 more weeks for the crusted areas to fully scab over and heal.
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    Prevent The Spread Of Germs:

    • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands several times each day. Wash after you use the bathroom, change a childs diaper, and before you prepare or eat food. Use soap and water every time. Rub your soapy hands together, lacing your fingers. Wash the front and back of your hands, and in between your fingers. Use the fingers of one hand to scrub under the fingernails of the other hand. Wash for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with warm, running water for several seconds. Then dry your hands with a clean towel or paper towel. Use hand sanitizer that contains alcohol if soap and water are not available. Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands first.
    • Cover a sneeze or cough. Use a tissue that covers your mouth and nose. Throw the tissue away in a trash can right away. Use the bend of your arm if a tissue is not available. Wash your hands well with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.
    • Stay away from others while you are sick. Avoid crowds as much as possible.
    • Ask about vaccines you may need. Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccine history. He or she will tell you which vaccines you need, and when to get them.

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    How Long Does Shingles Last

    Most cases of shingles last three to five weeks.

    • The first sign is often burning or tingling pain sometimes it includes numbness or itching on one side of the body.
    • Somewhere between one and five days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear.
    • A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters.
    • About one week to 10 days after that, the blisters dry up and crust over.
    • A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.

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    What Triggers A Shingles Outbreak And Who Is Most At Risk

    According to Dr. Gurland, we just dont know why outbreaks happen some researchers have linked shingles with periods of excess stress, but most people who get stressed dont get shingles.

    However, shingles is more common in patients whose immune systems arent functioning normally due to cancer, medications, other infections, and other health conditions. While you dont need an immune deficiency to get shingles, said Dr. Gurland, a significant minority of patients who have it also have a suppressed immune system. The risk also increases with age , although Dr. Gurland has seen very young patients develop the disease as it doesnt discriminate.

    Prevent Shingles Or Another Shingles Outbreak:

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    A vaccine may be given to help prevent shingles. You can get the vaccine even if you already had shingles. The vaccine can help prevent a future outbreak. If you do get shingles again, the vaccine can keep it from becoming severe. The vaccine comes in 2 forms. Your healthcare provider will tell you which form is right for you. The decision is based on your age and any medical conditions you have. A 2-dose vaccine is usually given to adults 50 years or older. A 1-dose vaccine may be given to adults 60 years or older.

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    How Is Shingles Treated

    Specific treatment for shingles will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

    • Your age, overall health, and medical history
    • How long the shingles have been present
    • Extent of the condition
    • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
    • Expectations for the course of the condition
    • Your opinion or preference

    There is no cure for shingles. It simply has to run its course. Treatment focuses on pain relief. Painkillers may help relieve some of the pain. Antiviral drugs may help lessen some of the symptoms and reduce nerve damage. Other treatments may include:

    • Creams or lotions to help relieve itching
    • Cool compresses applied to affected skin areas
    • Antiviral medicines
    • Anticonvulsants

    Is Shingles Prevention Possible Is There A Shingles Vaccine

    Prevention of shingles in people who have contracted chickenpox is difficult, since the factors that trigger reactivation are not yet defined. However, if a person is never infected with the virus, shingles will not develop. Furthermore, there are at least two methods that are currently used to reduce the incidence of shingles.

    First, the VZV vaccine, otherwise known as the chickenpox vaccine, may decrease the incidence of shingles by enhancing the immune systems ability to fight off VZV or keep this virus inactive. This vaccine is usually administered to children, but the immunity may decline in about 15-20 years. The single-dose vaccine dose is given to babies 12-18 months of age. Most vaccine side effects, if they occur, are mild and range from a rash, skin redness, and swelling to small chickenpox lesions, usually at the injection site. Boosters of this vaccine for use in adults are now being investigated and may help prevent shingles in the future.

    Shingrix is the vaccine the CDC currently recommends as the preferred shingles vaccine. Two doses about 2-6 months apart are more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and PHN, and it is recommended for use in people 50 and over. Side effects of Shingrix may occur and last about 2-3 days and may include redness and swelling at the inoculation site. Some individuals may experience muscle pain, headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, and nausea.

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    Shingles And Chickenpox Contagiousness Comparison

    Chickenpox is very contagious when in close contact with an infected person. Before the FDA approval of the chickenpox vaccine in 1995, it was a very common childhood illness. Since then, chickenpox cases have dropped by more than 99%. However, unvaccinated people who have never been infected can catch chickenpox at any age. Patients are most contagious when blisters are present, and they should isolate during this phase of the disease.

    Shingles occurs most commonly in people over 50 years old, but it can strike at any age in unvaccinated people who have already had chickenpox. But you cannot get shingles if you havent had chickenpox first. The virus in shingles blisters is not as contagious as in chickenpox blisters, but the varicella-zoster virus is still present in the fluid and transmission is possible.

    However, you cant get shingles from someone who has shingles. Direct contact with a person who has shingles can only spread VZV to a person who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. If infected with VZV, they will get chickenpox, not shingles. They can develop shingles later as the virus is now in their body.

    What Are Risk Factors For Shingles

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    Shingles can only occur in individuals who have previously been exposed to the varicella-zoster virus. Risk factors for the development of shingles include the following:

    • Increasing age: Though shingles can rarely occur in children, it is much more common in older adults, with the incidence increasing with age. This is thought to be in large part due to waning immunity as people age. Approximately 50% of all cases of shingles occur in adults 60 years of age or older.
    • Weakened immune system: Individuals with impaired immune systems have a higher probability of developing shingles. This can be seen in diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, or in individuals taking certain medications. Patients taking steroids or other immunosuppressive medications, such as people who have undergone organ transplants, and individuals with certain autoimmune diseases are at increased risk for developing shingles.
    • Psychological and emotional stressors are also thought to possibly contribute to the development of shingles, perhaps from the detrimental effects of stress on the immune system and the persons health.

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    What Is The Prognosis Of Shingles

    Generally speaking, shingles typically resolves within two to four weeks in most individuals. The prognosis is excellent for younger and healthy individuals who develop shingles, with very few experiencing any complications. However, in older individuals and in those with compromised immune systems, the prognosis is more guarded, as complications and more severe outbreaks of shingles occur more commonly in these groups.

    Approximately 1%-4% of people who develop shingles require hospitalization for complications, and about 30% of those hospitalized have impaired immune systems. In the U.S., it is estimated that there are approximately 96 deaths per year directly related to the varicella zoster virus, the vast majority of which occur in the elderly and in those who are immunocompromised.

    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.

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    When Should You See An Id Care Doctor For Shingles

    If you think you might have shingles, if youre concerned about pain associated with shingles, or if youre unhappy with your current shingles treatment plan, you should see a specialist at ID Care, Dr. Gurland said. If you can get to a doctor within 72 hours of the onset of symptoms, youll have the best chance for a good result.

    At ID Care, your health is our priority. To schedule an appointment to get your shingles vaccine or to consult with an infectious disease doctor today, call 908-281-0221 or visit .

    How Can You Prevent Spreading The Virus

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    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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    What Is Id Cares Experience Caring For Shingles Patients

    There are over 50 physicians at ID Care across 10 New Jersey locations, and our team keeps growing, said Dr. Gurland, including advanced care providers with broad experience treating patients with shingles, and who understand exactly how the disease progresses, how to fight it, and how to keep it from coming back.

    Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix

    You should not receive the Shingrix vaccine if you:

    • Have ever had a severe allergy to this vaccine or any ingredient in this vaccine.
    • Are breastfeeding or pregnant.
    • Are somewhat ill or very ill and have a high fever.
    • Have tested negative for immunity to varicella zoster virus .

    Ask your healthcare provider if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.

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    What Are The Complications Of Shingles

    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.

    Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used

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    Yes. It is still recommended for preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia in healthy people age 50 and older. 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 .

    Zostavax can be considered if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable due to supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because it is 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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