What Triggers A Shingles Flare
Shingles can be triggered by a number of factors, and sensitivities to each factor can vary from person to person.
Things that weaken the immune system, such as stress, certain medications, or other health conditions, can cause shingles flare-ups, as can certain foods that contain an amino acid that helps the virus to replicate.
Shingles: Symptoms And Effects Of Virus
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The same virus that leads to chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus, causes shingles. Those who have had chickenpox can develop shingles. While recovering from chickenpox, the virus enters your nervous system and remains there, dormant, for years.
When To Seek Medical Advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
You should also see your GP if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and you think you have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles and havent had chickenpox before.
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Shingles Rash In The Eyes
Ophthalmic shingles, or herpes zoster ophthalmicus , is when the shingles rash is in and/or around the eye. It is a severe variant that affects 20% of people with the infection.
If you develop a shingles rash near your eye, contact your healthcare provider right away.
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HZO usually appears within two to four weeks after a shingles rash starts. People who have a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are at higher risk for developing this.
All parts of the eye can be affected. For example:
- You can develop blisters around the eye that may cause the eyelids and surrounding area to swell.
- The corneaâthe transparent part over the front of the eyeâcan be affected, causing calcification .
- Blood vessels in the eye could become more pronounced blood flow to the eye could be impacted.
To reduce your risk of long-term eye complications, contact your healthcare provider right away if you have a shingles rash on your face.
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.
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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
What Does The Shingles Rash Look Like
The varicella zoster virus which causes shingles lies dormant in the nervous system, so the rash will appear in a dermatomal pattern a band or area of skin on the body corresponding to a particular set of nerves. The shingles rash usually appears on the face, neck or one side of the torso.
Good to know: If the relevant nerves are affected, it is also possible to experience shingles on the leg. It is relatively unusual, but also possible, to develop the shingles rash in more than one area of the body, i.e. in relation to more than one set of nerves. Even more rarely and especially in people with a compromised immune system, three or more dermatomes may be affected. This is a form of the condition known as disseminated zoster.
As the condition progresses, the rash site develops blisters which fill with clear fluid. Because shingles interacts with a personâs nervous system, the rash is often accompanied by an intense, stabbing pain which worsens as it develops. The area affected by the rash may be hypersensitive to touch, which can render it difficult to dress or to sleep in certain positions.
A person with shingles is contagious to others in the period when their rash is blistering. During this period, a person should avoid physical contact with others, in particular, certain population groups, including:
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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.
What Are The Symptoms And Stages Shingles
Shingles symptoms appear in stages. At first, you may get headaches or feel like you have the flu, but without a fever. You may also be sensitive to light, have trouble thinking clearly or feel dizzy and weak.
A few days or even weeks later, an area of your body or face will feel itchy, tingly or painful. This is where a rash will appear. The rash will eventually turn into a cluster of blisters that are filled with fluid.
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What Does Shingles Feel Like Before The Rash
Before the rash appears, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where it will develop. This may happen several days before the rash appears. Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face.
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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Research And Statistics: Who Gets Shingles
Almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles at some point, according to the CDC.
Of an estimated one million U.S. cases of shingles each year, about half of them occur in people age 60 or older.
In fact, about half of people over 80 have had shingles.
The chicken pox vaccine was introduced in 1995 and has reduced incidence of the virus by up to 85 percent. Theoretically, this should reduce the incidence of shingles as people who were vaccinated as children grow up, but its too soon to know if this is the case.
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Shingles Chickenpox And Pregnancy
An attack of shingles during pregnancy will not harm the unborn baby. The mother is already carrying the varicella zoster virus before developing shingles and there is no increase in the risk of passing it on to the fetus if shingles develops. However, an attack of chickenpox during pregnancy can be serious and requires urgent medical attention.
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Ringworm Or Shingles Virus: A Case Of Mistaken Identity
Ringworm is an infectious skin disease that, despite its name, is caused by a fungus, whereas the shingles rash is caused by a virus. Ringworm infection causes red, itchy, scaly patches on your skin, often in several places at once. Sometimes the patches blister and ooze, much like the shingles rash. Ringworm is most common in children, and it spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact or contact with an item contaminated with the fungus, like dirty clothes or a shower floor.
Early Symptoms Of Shingles
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What is shingles?
The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. Its called the varicella zoster virus .
VZV stays dormant in your body even after you recover from chickenpox. The chickenpox virus can reactivate years or even decades later, but its not understood why.
When this happens, a person will develop shingles. Recognizing the early symptoms is important because it can be a painful condition with severe complications.
state that almost 1 in 3 people in the US will develop shingles in their lifetime. But some people are more likely to develop shingles than others.
It is that half of all cases of shingles occur in people aged 60 years and older.
Other groups prone to developing shingles include:
- people who have had organ transplants
- people experiencing a lot of stress
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How Long Does Shingles Last
Shingles blisters usually scab over in 7-10 days and disappear completely in two to four weeks. In most healthy people, the blisters leave no scars, and the pain and itching go away after a few weeks or months. But people with weakened immune systems may develop shingles blisters that do not heal in a timely manner.
Psoriasis Forms Red Patches On The Skin
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that is easy to confuse with the shingles rash. As with the shingles virus, psoriasis forms red patches on the skin, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. One type of psoriasis pustular can lead to the development of blisters. Areas of skin affected by psoriasis often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Treatment can help control the condition.
Risk Factors Of Shingles
Anyone that has suffered from chickenpox can develop a shingles outbreak later in life. The likelihood of individuals in the United States developing either disease is diminishing due to the widespread use of vaccinations against the virus. However, there are still risk factors that increase the risk that you may suffer a shingles outbreak.
Weakened Immune System
Diseases that weaken your immune system such as cancer, HIV/AIDS can increase the risk that patients will suffer a shingles outbreak. Because cancer treatments will significantly weaken the immune system, those that have gone through chemotherapy or radiation are also at a higher risk for developing singles. Any other medications that suppress the immune system such as those given to patients going through an organ transplant will have similar effects.
The risk of developing shingles also becomes greater as people age. People over the age of 50 are significantly more likely to develop shingles than any other age group. It is estimated that about half the people who live to age 85 will experience shingles at least once.
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Could It Be Shingles
If youre an older adult and experiencing a blistery rash, the most likely answer is that youve got , a.k.a. herpes zoster, which affects one in three people in their lifetime, according to the CDC. Shingles is whats known as a reactivation virus that usually affects older adults, says Dr. Jones Lopez. Basically, once youve had chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus stays in your body. After the initial infection, the virus goes into dormant state for potentially decades, he says. Much later in life, when your immunity goes down, it can reactivate as shingles.
Unlike a chickenpox rash, the shingles rash is usually confined to a specific area of the body and appears in a single band, rather than spreading indiscriminately. It typically happens somewhere on the chest or back, says Dr. Jones-Lopez, although the head and other parts of the body can sometimes be affected. The key thing that distinguishes the shingles rash is that it doesnt cross the midline. If it spreads across your body, its not shingles. For example, if youve got a rash on left side of your face but another on the right side of your back, you can probably rule out this illness.
In addition to a rash , you may have some pain, itching, or tingling on your skin. You may also have flu-like symptoms . Like chickenpox, shingles rashes may itchbut they are mostly known for causing pain.
Hows Shingles Without A Rash Diagnosed
Shingles without a rash isnt common, but it may be more common than previously thought because it often goes undiagnosed. Shingles without a rash is difficult to diagnose based on your symptoms alone.
Your doctor may test your blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or saliva to identify the presence of VZV antibodies. This will allow them to confirm a diagnosis of shingles without a rash. However, these tests are often inconclusive.
Your medical history may provide clues that suggest you have shingles without a rash. Your doctor may ask if youve had a recent operation or if youre under increased stress.
Once your doctor suspects you have VZV, theyll use antiviral medicines such as acyclovir to treat the shingles. They may also prescribe drugs for the pain.
Other treatment will vary based on the location and severity of symptoms.
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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 pain doesnt lessen, other treatments such as nerve blocks or steroid injections near the area where the nerves exit the spine can be tried. Implantable nerve stimulator devices are an option for severe, ongoing pain that has not responded to other treatments.
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If I Have Disseminated Zoster/shingles What Can I Expect For My Hospital Stay
It is important to note that most people with shingles do not need to be in a hospital, but if you do:
- You will be in an airborne-contact isolation room.
- The door will be kept closed.
- A sign on your door will remind people who have never had chickenpox or the vaccine not to enter.
- The sign will also remind staff to wear gowns and gloves when entering the room.
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The Shingles Rash Usually Occurs On One Side Of The Body Or Face Most Commonly On The Trunk
Its easy to mistake a shingles rash for another health condition that affects the skin. The shingles virus typically causes a painful rash and blisters, which can resemble many other skin conditions psoriasis, eczema, and hives among them. However, there are a few signs that your rash is more likely to be shingles than something else.
To get shingles, you must have had chickenpox. Shingles, or herpes zoster, occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates after lying dormant in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 3 people in the United States will get shingles in their lifetime. While your risk of getting shingles increases as you age, anyone can get it if they had chickenpox, notes the CDC.
About half of all shingles cases occur in adults age 60 or older, and the risk of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Where Does Shingles Rash Appear
Shingles usually develops on one side of your body, often on your waist, back, or chest. Within about 5 days, you may see a red rash in that area. Small groups of oozing, fluid-filled blisters may appear a few days later in the same area. You may experience flu-like symptoms such as a fever, headache, or fatigue.
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Who’s At Risk For Shingles
Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can get shingles, but the risk increases with age. People older than age 60 are up to 10 times more likely to get shingles than younger people. Other factors that increase your risk include:
- Some cancer medicines
- A weak immune system from illnesses such as cancer or HIV
A quarter of adults will develop shingles at some point, and most are otherwise healthy.