Risk Factors For Shingles
Once youve had chickenpox as a child, youre at risk of getting shingles later in life. The virus stays dormant, or asleep, in your body. It hides out in nerve cells near your spinal cord, but it can become active again when youre older.
Youre at increased risk of getting shingles if you:
- had chickenpox as a child
- are age 50 or older because your immune system weakens as you age
- have a weakened immune system because of a disease like cancer, HIV infection, or AIDS
- take medicine that weakens your immune system, such as chemotherapy or radiation for cancer, or stops your body from rejecting a transplanted organ
Shingles is especially serious in some groups of people, including:
Symptoms Of Shingles On The Face
As with other forms of zoster, shingles on the head usually causes pain and the typical skin rash. These then appear, for example, on the hairy scalp, forehead and nose or even on the neck. However, the rash may also be absent.
Because of the many sensitive structures in the head area, shingles in the face can lead to secondary problems. This is especially true when the patients immune system is weakened. It can be particularly problematic if herpes zoster in the face affects the eye or ear:
This Is How Shingles Develop In The Face
A shingles in the face develops in the same way as other forms of herpes zoster: the varicella zoster virus , which always causes chickenpox first, remains in the body for life after this childhood disease has healed: it slumbers in nerve roots of the spinal cord and cranial nerves. The immune system keeps the pathogen in an inactive state so that it does not cause any problems.
But if the bodys defenses are weakened, the viruses can wake up again and cause shingles: Starting from the nerve roots, the pathogens migrate along the respective nerve pathways, causing the nerve tissue to become inflamed. From the outside, this is visible in that part of the body that is supplied by the nerve tract in question. Thus, shingles affects the face, scalp and neck if the pathogens have survived in the roots of corresponding cranial nerves.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Shingles
Often the first shingles symptoms happen in the area where the rash will appear. A person may have tingling, itching, or pain in this area. When the rash shows up, the pain may be mild or severe.
The rash starts as groups of tiny pimples on one side of the body or the face. Its often in the shape of a band or belt. The pimples change to pus-filled blisters that break open and scab over in about 710 days. The scabs usually heal and fall off about 24 weeks after the rash starts.
Some kids with shingles also may have a fever and a headache, and might feel tired and achy. Rarely, a child has the pain of shingles without the rash. More severe symptoms can happen, but usually in people over age 50.
Other Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles
The severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person. Some people may have mild symptoms, whereas others may feel intense pain.
Other symptoms of shingles include:
- sensitivity to light
- fluid-filled blisters
Seek immediate medical care if you experience symptoms of shingles.
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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.
- 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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Basic Guide To Having Shingles On The Face
Shingles on the face is a painful condition that can affect anyone, but most often occurs in older adults. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the very same virus the causes chickenpox. Shingles causes an outbreak of blisters filled with fluid on just a single side of your body. Shingles are not contagious to other people, but they may be contagious to people who have never had chickenpox or shingles before. The good news about having shingles on the face is that treatment options exist. Read this article for more information about symptoms and treatment options for people with shingles on their faces.
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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.
Shingles On The Face: Scarring
In addition to the symptoms mentioned, shingles often causes scarring. The face and neck area are of course particularly unfavourable regions for this. In contrast to chickenpox, the scars from shingles occur without the skin blisters being scratched open. Therefore they often cannot be prevented. However, the earlier shingles on the face is professionally treated, the lower the risk of scars.
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How Contagious Is Shingles
Shingles is not contagious, but the varicella-zoster virus that causes it can be spread to another person who hasnât had chickenpox, and they could develop the disease. You canât get shingles from someone with shingles, but you can get chickenpox.
The varicella-zoster virus is spread when someone comes into contact with an oozing blister. Itâs not contagious if the blisters are covered or have formed scabs.
To prevent spreading the varicella-zoster virus if you have shingles, be sure to keep the rash clean and covered. Do not touch the blisters, and make sure to wash your hands often.
You should avoid being around at-risk people, such as pregnant people and people who have weak immune systems.
for adults ages 50 and older.
Zostavax is a live vaccine, which contains a weakened form of the varicella-zoster virus. The CDC recommends the newer Shingrix vaccine because itâs over 90 percent effective and is more likely to last longer than the Zostavax vaccine.
While side effects such as allergic reactions are possible from these vaccines, the CDC has no documented cases of the varicella-zoster virus being transmitted from people who were vaccinated.
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Whos 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.
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Can You Get Shingles On Your Neck And Head
Theres a possibility of getting the area nearby affected with shingles too.
If you get it on your scalp, you can get it on your neck, and even other parts like the torso, waist, chest, or back will erupt with rashes.
But the good thing about this infection is that it only spreads to one side of the body and keeps it there. So if the left side is affected, only the left side will have the rashes.
And shingles on the scalp are significantly trickier to treat and require careful observation and consideration.
How To Treat Shingles On The Face
Shingles on the face may require referral to a specialist for treatment, such as an ophthalmologist.
There are also medications that can ease symptoms. When taken early, they can help the blisters to clear more quickly and decrease pain. Treatment is most effective if you take it within 3 days of your symptoms starting.
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Home Care For Shingles
Colloidal oatmeal baths are an old standby for relieving the itch of chickenpox and can help with shingles, as well. To speed up the drying out of the blisters, try placing a cool, damp washcloth on the rash If your doctor gives you the green light, stay active while recovering from shingles. Gentle exercise or a favorite activity may help keep your mind off the discomfort.
Shingles Can Harm Your Eyes
Eyelid shingles can impact your vision and your comfort. But shingles can do even more. The virus can spread to tissues within the eye, and that can cause additional damage.
Researchers say 1 person in 100 can develop the ophthalmic version of shingles, and most who do are elderly. If you have the condition, you may visit your doctor complaining of:
- Vision changes.
- Redness in your eye.
- Welts around your eye.
Itâs important to get help right away when shingles appears in your eye, says Mayo Clinic. Shingles can cause longstanding problems with your vision, and in some cases, it can cause blindness. The sooner you act, the better.
You will probably be encouraged to get help, experts say, as shingles within the eye are excruciating. You might describe the pain as itchy, burning, or stabbing. It does not get better if you blink or rest. And it may feel worse with each passing day.
Shingles brings more than just extreme discomfort to the eyes. It can also weaken the structures within the eye, and that can increase your risk of other eye health problems. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says a case of shingles can up your risk of developing these issues:
If the welts appear on your cornea, they can leave scars behind. Those marks can blur your vision for years to come.
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Treatment Options For Shingles On The Face
If you have shingles on one side of your face, there is no need to worry about permanent damage because you only risk spreading zoster through touch if someone touches your affected skin while it is still in its blister stage. Treatment can help reduce discomfort from blisters and speed up healing time, but unfortunately there are few treatment options available when shingles affects both sides of the head or around an eye.
Just like chickenpox, you just have to let shingles run its natural course. There are treatment options available to make you feel more comfortable, including:
Who Is At Risk Of Shingles On The Scalp
If youve had chickenpox at any point in your life, theres always a chance that youll develop shingles.
The only people who wont develop shingles are those who have never had chickenpox. However, you can still catch chickenpox even when youre an adult. And if you do, it means youll be susceptible to shingles later on.
So, lets look at who is more likely to develop shingles. First of all, shingles isnt hereditary. What this means is youre no more likely to get it if your family members have had it. Its purely down to who you are, and the lifestyle that you lead.
One of the main factors is age. When older, youre more likely to suffer from a shingles attack. In particular, the elderly are the most susceptible age group. Its thought that this has something to do with the immune system. As we age, our immune systems naturally become weaker. A weakened immune system means that the shingles virus finds it easier to become active.
For the same reason, people who are under a lot of stress are more at risk of developing shingles. Stress can put pressure on the immune system, making you more susceptible to all sorts of illnesses. Similarly, youre more likely to get shingles if you already have an illness which affects the immune system.
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When Should You See A Healthcare Provider
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you suspect you might have shingles, especially if you are older than age 60.
You should also seek out medical attention for:
- Pain and/or a rash near the eye. Left untreated, shingles could lead to permanent eye damage.
- Pain, redness, or rash on the face
- A very painful and widespread rash
- A high fever or feeling very sick in addition to a rash
- Blister spread to other parts of the body
- A severe headache with a rash on the scalp or head
- Weakness on one side of the face
The National Institute on Aging recommends seeing your healthcare provider no later than three days after the start of the shingles rash.
The Details: Heres Where Postherpetic Neuralgia Gets Complicated
Postherpetic Neuralgia Causes
To help you understand how shingles can cause PHN, you need to know how you can get shingles. Shingles is caused by a viral infection called herpes zoster. The virus that causes herpes zoster is called the varicella-zoster virus, and it is the same virus that causes chicken pox in childhood. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus can enter the nervous system and remain dormant for many years. In some people, the virus will reactivate years later and produce shingles.4
Researchers arenât exactly sure what triggers the herpes zoster virus to re-emerge after all those years, but they think it is related to age, illness, and stress.3 Shingles can be very painful, and when the virus reaches the skin, it can cause blistery rashes. These rashes usually heal in less than 3 months.
And this chain of events can lead to PHN. If the pain of shingles lingers longer than 3 months, you may have PHN.
During your bout with shingles, the virus you were fighting injured nerves in and around the skin where the rash and blisters once existed. As your immune system eventually suppressed the virus, your rash and blisters disappeared. You may have even felt less pain, and you assumed that you had won the battle with shingles.
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Stroke And Other Brain Ailments
In addition to shinglesÃÂ¢ telltale rash, neurological symptoms develop quickly and can include headaches, vomiting, fever, and confusion. This could be because varicella zoster virus sits on a nerve. ÃÂ¢That nerve cell body has an arm that has contact with the skin, but it also has another arm that goes directly to the brain,ÃÂ¢ explains Dr. Mukerji. ÃÂ¢When the virus goes to the brain, it can cause meningitis, encephalitis, or stroke.ÃÂ¢
So, while shingles resulting in brain conditions is rare, it can increase your risk for stroke. Case in point: A 2016 review of epidemiological studies published in the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases found that during the year after a shingles bout, the risk of stroke increased 59%, and this risk was highest among those under 40.
In addition, shingles can also cause swelling in the brain and seizures, both of which can lead to serious and permanent complications.
Check If You Have Shingles
The first signs of shingles can be:
- a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
- a headache or feeling generally unwell
A rash will appear a few days later.
Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.
The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on 1 side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
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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 Could It Be If Its Not Shingles
By now, you know the causes, symptoms, and treatments of shingles, as well as the most frequently asked questions. If youve decided that your symptoms dont match scalp shingles, you might be wondering what else it could be. There are many conditions that could cause a rash on the scalp, so well take you through the most common ones.
One common cause of a rash on the scalp is psoriasis. This rash looks quite different from shingles, although it is just as itchy. Rather than blisters that fill with fluid, psoriasis is a dry, scaly rash. So if youre suffering from patches of silvery, flaky skin on your scalp, psoriasis could be the cause. Seborrheic dermatitis also produces very similar symptoms to psoriasis.
You could also have a fungal infection of the scalp. Tinea capitis is a common fungal infection that causes very itchy, dry patches of skin on the scalp. Its usually accompanied by hair loss in the area of the rash. Tinea capitis can also cause a low fever and swollen lymph nodes, symptoms that it has in common with shingles.
If you have a very itchy, irritated scalp, you could even have head lice. Contrary to popular belief, its not just children who catch head lice. They dont cause a rash, but their bites do cause itchiness. If you scratch your head too much, it can result in sores that might resemble a shingles rash.
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