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.
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
Who Is At Risk
The shingles virus can spread to anyone and is relatively common. However, some people are more susceptible than others. In particular, older people have a greater risk of contracting chickenpox or shingles. Once a person has had shingles, his or her body retains the virus permanently. Anyone with shingles should stay away from people with weakened immune systems, as well as pregnant women, elderly individuals, and babies . These demographics have a higher risk of infection.
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Where Does Shingles Come From
When you have chickenpox as a child, your body fights off the varicella-zoster virus and the physical signs of chickenpox fade away, but the virus always remains in your body. In adulthood, sometimes the virus becomes active again. This time, the varicella-zoster virus makes its second appearance in the form of shingles.
How Long Is Shingles Contagious
Shingles is not contagious. But if someone comes into contact with the rash at a certain stage, they may contract the varicella-zoster virus and develop chickenpox. If they have chickenpox, shingles can develop later in life.
To prevent the virus from being transmitted, keep shingles rashes covered. Cover the rash from when the blisters appear to when they crust and scab over. According to the , this usually takes 7 to 10 days.
The rash will usually clear after 2 to 4 weeks.
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Who Should Avoid Contact With Shingles
One way of preventing the spread is to avoid contact with people who have shingles blisters.
If a person gets chickenpox, they usually only have it once. This is for shingles. A person is unlikely to have shingles more than once, unless they have a weakened immune system, which may result from a health issue or immunosuppressant treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Anyone with shingles blisters should especially avoid contact with:
- Pregnant people who have never had chickenpox or its vaccination: If chickenpox develops during pregnancy, especially 521 days before birth, it can be dangerous for the fetus.
- Children who have not had chickenpox or its vaccination: Until a child is vaccinated, they should avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles blisters.
- People with weakened immune systems, such as:
- infants born early or with a low birth weight
- people with HIV, leukemia, lymphoma, or other health issues that have this immune effect
- people who take immunosuppressant medications, such as chemotherapy
- people who have had organ transplants
After contact with the varicella virus, a person in any of the above groups may be unable to ward off the infection. Their risk of developing chickenpox, then shingles and its complications may be higher.These groups are also likely to have the illnesses for longer, and the symptoms may be more severe.
increase the risk of shingles.
Ways of managing the symptoms include:
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
The clinical appearance of shingles, with characteristic painful blisters localized to the region of a specific nerve on one side of the body, is usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis. No diagnostic tests are typically required. However, particularly in people with impaired immune function, shingles may sometimes not display the characteristic clinical pattern. In these cases, samples from the affected area may be tested in a laboratory, either by culturing the tissue or blister drainage for growth of the virus or by identifying the genetic material of the virus.
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What Should I Do About An Exposure To Varicella
If you have been in contact with someone with chickenpox or shingles, or if you have a rash-associated illness that might be chickenpox or shingles, discuss your situation with your healthcare provider. Blood tests may be done to see if you have become infected with the virus or have had the disease in the past. If you are pregnant and not immune and have been exposed to chickenpox or shingles, call your healthcare provider immediately. Your provider may choose to treat you with a medication called varicella-zoster immune globulin , but in order for this medication to be most helpful, it needs to be given as soon as possible after your exposure to varicella.
Who Is At Risk For Shingles
You! About 98 percent of adults have had chickenpox and are at risk for shingles. In the United States, at least 1 million people get shingles each year. Shingles is far more common in people age 50 and older than in younger people. About half of shingles cases occur in people age 60 or older. It is more common in people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease, such as cancer or human immunodeficiency virus , or from drugs, like steroids or chemotherapy. Anyone can get shingles, though, including children.
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Im Pregnant And Have Had A Blood Test For Chickenpox What Do The Results Of This Test Show
The blood test can show that you:
- Are immune and have no sign of recent infection. You have nothing further to be concerned about.
- Are not immune and have not yet been infected. You should avoid anyone with chickenpox during your pregnancy.
- Have or recently had an infection. You should discuss what the risks are for your stage of pregnancy with your healthcare provider.
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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Are There Complications Of Shingles
Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone, including:
- Brain inflammation or facial paralysis if it affects certain nerves
- Eye problems and vision loss if your rash was in or around your eye
- Pain that lasts long after the outbreak, called postherpetic neuralgia. It affects up to 1 in 5 people who get shingles.
How Contagious Is Shingles
Shingles or herpes zoster is a disease affecting the nervous system. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life, as shingles is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. Shingles is somewhat contagious and individuals with an active infection should take care to minimize the spread of the virus.
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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.
Will Shingles Go Away On Its Own
Shingles isn’t life-threatening, but it can be incredibly painful and, in some cases, complications can arise. While this rash typically goes away its own, prompt treatment can reduce your pain and help shingles go away faster.
“Several antivirals can be used to treat shingles. These drugs can help you heal more quickly and reduce your pain, but they are most effective when started within 72 hours of your rash appearing. This means it’s important to see your doctor as soon as you suspect shingles,” says Dr. Brown. “When it comes to the pain associated with shingles, most people are able to manage it using over-the-counter pain relievers. But, pain can be severe for some people. In these cases, your doctor can prescribe stronger pain medications.”
Beyond treating your immediate pain and rash, seeing your doctor is also important since serious complications can occur as a result of shingles, such as:
- Postherpetic neuralgia pain that lasts for months to years after the rash clears, with this pain being debilitating in some cases
- Skin infection occurs if the open sores of your rash become infected with bacteria, which can require antibiotics and delay healing
- Vision problems while rare, if your rash develops near your eye, the associated inflammation can damage your retina and, in some cases, result in vision loss
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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.
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.
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How Dangerous Is Shingles
Shingles isnt considered a dangerous health condition.
Each year about 1 million new cases of shingles are reported in the United States. Most people recover and resume their normal activities once theyre no longer infectious.
However, if shingles isnt treated, particularly severe cases can lead to death.
People with autoimmune conditions and people over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for shingles complications.
Women who are pregnant may also be concerned if they develop shingles. You and your baby will most likely be safe. However, talk with your healthcare provider if youre pregnant and suspect you have shingles.
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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How Does The Herpes Zoster Virus Spread
The herpes zoster virus that is shed from shingles lesions is highly contagious and can be spread through direct contact with the fluid caused by rash blisters.
Shingles have not been known to spread during intercourse or via sexual contact, although touching open sores will lead to a high risk of contracting the virus.
The herpes zoster virus has been detected in the saliva and nasal secretions of the affected individuals. So theoretically, the virus can be spread through kissing, although this is very rare.
Precautions To Take If You Have Shingles
If you have shingles currently and are trying to avoid spreading it, the best thing you can do is cover your rash. According to the NY Department of Health, the risk of spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered. If you have shingles, you should keep your rash covered, not touch or scratch the rash, and wash your hands often to prevent the spread of the virus.
Also, according to the CDC, until your rash has developed crusts, you should avoid contact with the following groups:
- Pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
- Infants who have not yet had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
- People with weakened immune systems such as people receiving immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with HIV
These people are the most at risk for catching chickenpox.
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Is Shingles Contagious 2 Methods Of Transmission To Avoid
Exactly how you get shingles can be confusing: it’s technically the reactivation of chickenpox and is caused by the same pesky virus .
But is shingles contagious? What are the riskiest transmission methods? How long is it contagious? What can you do to avoid getting shingles transmitted to you? What even causes shingles?
We’ll be covering everything below, but let’s start with a basic question.
Feature image: Wikimedia/Fisle
How Can You Affect Others When You Have Shingles
Shingles does not spread from person to person. What can pass on is the varicella-zoster virus from the fluid in shingles blisters.
When you have shingles with an active rash, it is possible to pass on the virus to anyone who has not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
Once a person has the virus, they may have a chickenpox infection and possibly later in life have shingles.
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When Is The Shingles Virus Contagious
A person with shingles can pass it on to someone else from when the blisters form until they clear up. The fluid within the blisters contains the virus. People can transmit the virus through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters.
Anyone who comes into contact with the fluid by touching it exposes themselves to the virus. People who have never had exposure to the virus are at risk of getting chickenpox. Those who have had chickenpox are not at risk of getting shingles by exposure to someone with shingles.
If you have shingles, be especially careful around:
- pregnant people
- people with weakened immune systems
- babies under 1 year old
- people who have not had chickenpox or the vaccine
When your shingles scab over and you no longer have a fluid present from the blisters, you are no longer contagious.
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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What Illnesses Does Varicella
Chickenpox first occurs as a blister-like skin rash and fever. It takes from 10-21 days after exposure for someone to develop chickenpox. The sores commonly occur in batches with different stages present at the same time. The blisters usually scab over in 5 days. A person with chickenpox is contagious 1-2 days before the rash appears and until all blisters have formed scabs. Children with weakened immune systems may have blisters occurring for a prolonged time period. Adults can develop severe pneumonia and other serious complications.
Shingles occurs when the virus, which has been inactive for some time, becomes active again. Severe pain and numbness along nerve pathways, commonly on the trunk or on the face, are present. Clusters of blisters appear 1 to 5 days later. The blisters are usually on one side of the body and closer together than in chickenpox. Shingles does not spread as shingles from one person to another. If people who have never had chickenpox come in contact with the fluid from shingles blisters, they can develop chickenpox.