What Is The Best Way To Prevent Shingles
Your best chance at preventing shingles is to get vaccinated. There is one vaccine, Shingrix, which is very effective in preventing shingles and complications, including postherpetic neuralgia.
- Shingrix is a recommended vaccine for all adults age 50 years and older whether or not they have had shingles or previously received varicella vaccine. The vaccine is a series of two doses. The administration of the second dose is given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.
How Long Does A Shingles Outbreak Last
It can take three to five weeks from the time you begin to feel symptoms until the rash totally disappears.
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
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When To Contact A Doctor
Its important to visit your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you have shingles, especially if youre somebody at an increased risk of developing it.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends visiting a dermatologist or other healthcare professional within 3 days to prevent long-term complications.
Shingles typically clears up within a few weeks and does not commonly recur. If your symptoms have not lessened within 10 days, contact a doctor for a follow-up and reevaluation.
What Causes Shingles
If youve had chickenpox , youre at risk for shingles. Both are caused by the varicella-zoster virus if you have chickenpox, the virus lives in your system even after the initial infection clears up. It can activate years later as shingles.
Shingles itself isnt contagious, but you can spread the varicella-zoster virus to someone who hasnt had chickenpox, and they could then develop chickenpox.
The virus is spread only when someone comes into contact with an oozing blister. If youve covered the blisters or theyve already formed scabs, youre no longer contagious.
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What Does It Cost
Most insurances will cover the shingles vaccine, but the coverage varies. The vaccine can be administered at an OSF office under your medical benefits, but some plans, based on your age, will require the vaccine to be administered at a retail pharmacy under your pharmacy benefits.
Out-of-pocket costs will vary by plan and deductible but may be covered as a preventive care benefit. Check with your provider or insurance plan for more details.
Getting the shingles vaccine when you are eligible is the best way to protect yourself from shingles, Jason said. Even if you previously received Zostavax vaccine in the past , Shingrix can provide additional protection and is still recommended for vaccination.
Shingrix is in high demand, which has led to shortages at times. Call ahead to see if its available and ask to be added to the list if theres a wait. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about being vaccinated today.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
You shouldnt 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.
- Currently have shingles.
- Are 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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Are There Natural Ways To Boost Your Immune System To Help Lessen The Chances Of Developing Shingles
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.
Treatment If Shingles Gets Worse
In some cases, shingles causes long-term problems. Treatment depends on the specific complication.
- Postherpetic neuralgia is persistent pain that lasts months or even years after the shingles rash heals. Certain medicines, such as anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and opioids, can relieve pain. Most cases of PHN get better within a year.
- Disseminated zoster is a blistery rash over a large portion of the body. It may affect the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, joints, and intestinal tract. Treatment may include both antiviral medicines to prevent the virus from multiplying and antibiotics to stop infection.
- Herpes zoster ophthalmicus is a rash on the forehead, cheek, nose, and around one eye. It could threaten your sight. Get treatment from an ophthalmologist right away. Treatment may include rest, cool compresses, and antiviral medicines.
- If the shingles virus affects the nerves originating in the brain , serious complications involving the face, eyes, nose, and brain can occur. Treatment depends on the nature and location of the complication.
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How To Avoid Spreading Shingles
The most effective way for people with shingles to prevent the spread of VZV is to:
- Frequently wash hands
- Avoid scratching
Additionally, you should avoid contact with vulnerable people if you develop shingles. Until the rash begins to heal and crust over, you should avoid people at higher risk for VZV complications, including people with compromised immune systems and pregnant people.
A person with shingles is contagious until their rash crusts over.
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.
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When Should I See A Doctor Because Of The Side Effects I Experience From Shingrix
Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system, so it may produce short-term side effects. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are expected and usually go away on their own in 2 or 3 days. You may choose to take over-the-counter pain medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Contact your healthcare provider if the symptoms are not improving or if they are getting worse.
In clinical trials, Shingrix was not associated with serious adverse events. In fact, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, for every 1 million doses of a vaccine given, only one or two people might have a severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction happen within minutes or hours after vaccination and include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness. If you experience these or any other life-threatening symptoms, see a doctor right away.
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.
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Are There Alternative Treatments
Some studies show that various alternative treatments, from acupuncture to supplements, can offer relief. The research isnât complete, but some shows promise. Check with your doctor before you try any of these:
TENS . This therapy uses tiny electrical pulses to relieve pain. A TENS unit is about the size of a smartphone and comes with small patches called electrodes. You put them over the painful area and turn the unit on and off as your pain comes and goes.
Traditional Chinese medicine: These treatments aim to restore balance in your body. They include acupuncture, the ancient practice of inserting very thin needles into your skin at specific points. Also, moxibustion and cupping, two types of heat therapy, are supposed to draw out toxins. These treatments may be done in combination.
Creams and other skin treatments: A mixture of liquid dimethyl sulfoxide and idoxuridine, an antiviral drug, may reduce swelling and the number of blisters you have when you put it on your rash. And chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their green color, is also used directly on the rash as a cream or saline solution.
Supplements: Youâll find a long list of herbs, pills, and oils that claim to relieve shingles. Most have no research to back them up, but there are a couple of exceptions. Papain, a protein found in papayas, is sold in capsules. And manuka and clover honeys can be put directly on your skin. Very early studies on both show they may be helpful.
The First Symptoms Of Shingles
Early symptoms of shingles can appear several days before the more obvious symptoms. However, some people will not have early symptoms before a rash appears.
The most common early symptoms occur on one part of the body or face. This often happens in the abdominal area.
These symptoms many include:
The pain can worsen as shingles develops. The pain can be sharp, stabbing, and intense.
It may also cause hypersensitivity, or an excessive reaction to touch.
There are also other early symptoms of shingles.
Although not every person with shingles will experience them, early symptoms include:
- general feeling of being unwell
Your doctor can often diagnose shingles based on these symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication to speed up recovery.
Medication also reduces the chance of complications, so seeking early intervention is important.
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How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated
Treatments include lotions or creams and/or other medications not specifically used for pain, such as antidepressants or drugs for epilepsy. Regular pain relievers are not usually effective for this type of pain.
If your pain doesnt lessen, you might try therapies like nerve blocks or steroid injections near the area where the nerves exit the spine. Your provider might suggest an implantable nerve stimulator device for severe, ongoing pain that hasnt responded to other treatments.
What Are The Risk Factors For Recurring Shingles
People dont know what causes recurring shingles, but certain factors increase your chances of getting shingles again.
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get shingles again. One study determined that the rate of shingles recurrence was among people with compromised immune systems. This is about 2.4 times higher than for those who didnt have compromised immune systems.
You may have a compromised immune system if you:
- are getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- have organ transplants
- are taking high doses of corticosteroids like prednisone
Additional risk factors include:
- longer-lasting and more severe pain with the first case of shingles
- pain for 30 days or more with the first case of shingles
- being over the age of 50
Having one or more blood relatives with shingles may also increase your risk of getting shingles.
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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.
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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Treat Your Body And Mind
You can get worn down mentally when youâre in constant pain. Stress can make it seem even worse. Self-care starts with treating your rash, but donât stop there. Your mind and emotional state need to be cared for as well.
5. Stick with good habits: Your bodyâs working hard to fight the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles. To give it the right support, you can:
- Eat nutritious food and have regular meals. Ask someone to make a run to the grocery store for fresh fruit and such if youâre not up for it.
- Try to get a good nightâs sleep and rest anytime you need to.
- Do gentle exercises, such as walking or stretching. Light activity can help take your mind off the pain. Keep it simple though, and check with your doctor if youâre trying something new.
6. Distract yourself: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to put your focus elsewhere. Here are a few things to try:
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.
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How Well Does Shingrix Work
Two doses of Shingrix provide strong protection against shingles and postherpetic neuralgia , the most common complication of shingles.
- In adults 50 to 69 years old with healthy immune systems, Shingrix was 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective.
- In adults 50 years and older, Shingrix was 91% effective in preventing PHN in adults 70 years and older, Shingrix was 89% effective.
- In adults with weakened immune systems, Shingrix was between 68% and 91% effective in preventing shingles, depending on their underlying immunocompromising condition.
In people 70 years and older who had healthy immune systems, Shingrix immunity remained high throughout 7 years following vaccination.
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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Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles
You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.
This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
Try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
How To Protect Yourself Against Shingles
As a child, you probably had the chickenpoxthe itchy, red rash that spread all over your skin and likely forced you to stay home from school and other activities. Once the rash faded and you felt better, you probably thought you were done with the virus.
But thats not the case. After the symptoms of chickenpox subside, the virus remains dormant in your nervous system. If it receives a signal to reactivate, you will get shingles, a painful blistering rash. One in five people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles.
And if youre over the age of 60, your chances of dealing with shingles rapidly increase thanks to decreasing immunity. In fact, one in three people 60 and older will get shingles. Here is how to protect yourself against shingles and what to do if you get sick.
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