How Do Dermatologists Treat Shingles
An antiviral medication can:
Reduce the amount of time that you have a shingles rash
Lower your risk of developing long-lasting nerve pain and other health problems
One of three antiviral medications is usually prescribedacyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir.
To treat your symptoms, dermatologists typically recommend the following:
Pain: Medication that you can buy without a prescription can help, such as:
If you have severe pain, your dermatologist may prescribe a medication that reduces inflammation, such as a corticosteroid.
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Shingles Risks And Pregnancy
Pregnant women are susceptible to shingles. Fortunately, shingles in pregnancy is very rare. The antiviral medications described previously are considered safe to use in pregnant women, as are most pain-relieving drugs. Women should not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen in the later stages of pregnancy, but acetaminophen is considered safe. Having chickenpox during pregnancy has the potential to cause birth defects, depending upon when in the pregnancy the infection occurs. The risk of birth defects is believed to be lower with shingles than with primary chickenpox infection.
What Is Shingles Common Symptoms
Shingles is an illness caused by a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. It inflames sensory nerves and can result in severe pain. It causes localized pain, numbness, and itching, followed by the appearance of clustered blisters in a strip pattern on one side of the body. Sometimes the pain can persist for weeks, months, or years after the rash heals . The term “shingles” is derived from the Latin word cingulum, meaning girdle — the idea being that the shingles rash often encircles the side of the body.
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Shingles Symptoms Before Rash
Shingles develops in two stages. The first is called the prodromal period.
Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus, which is what causes chickenpox. After an initial infection, the virus lays dormant in the body. Once reactivated, which can happen years down the line, shingles results.
Often, the earliest signs this is occurring are similar to what you’d expect at the start of any infection. These symptoms sometimes occur at times when you’re feeling stressed or run down. They are also systemic, meaning they affect the whole body.
You may assume you’re just overtired or coming down with a cold when you actually have shingles.
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 haven’t had chickenpox before.
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When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
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.
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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.
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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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Appearance Of The Shingles Rash
The eruptive stage of shingles begins a few days later. This is when a rash appears.
The skin in the area of the prodromal pain caused by shingles will often be sensitive to the touch and reddish in appearance. As these symptoms get worse, it may begin to feel like a sunburn.
Within three to five days of the initial pain, a few tiny pimple-like spots appear and quickly multiply into clusters, forming a rash that feels prickly to the touch.
From there, sometimes within hours, the pimples develop into water-filled blisters, or vesicles, that then consolidate into larger blisters. Often, redness and swelling accompany the rash.
The shingles rash looks very much like the chickenpox rash, with a key difference: Chickenpox blisters are widely scattered over the entire body. With shingles, the rash almost always occupies a finite strip of skin.
Ultimately, the pain of shingles may get so excruciating that simply grazing the skin with clothing can set off what feels like an electric shock.
Shingles Vs Other Skin Conditions
Shingles is different from other conditions in several ways:
- People may experience pain, including burning, tingling, or electrical sensations on their skin for 1 to 2 days before the rash develops.
- The shingles rash looks like a group of small blisters or lesions.
- The rash usually develops in one area, not as patches of blisters in different areas on the face.
- Shingles usually affects just one side of the face.
- Makeup, sun exposure, or an allergy do not trigger shingles.
- Shingles will not spread from one area of the body through contact, unlike some other rashes.
- Some people develop more lesions after the initial outbreak. These blisters might be near the location of the first rash, or somewhere else.
- The rash begins as sore blisters that may then crack, bleed, and scab over.
- Shingles lasts 1 to 2 weeks.
- Shingles sometimes causes other symptoms, such as a fever, headache, muscle aches, and stomach pain or vomiting.
- Only people who have previously had chickenpox can get shingles.
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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.
Can Shingles Be Prevented
There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.
Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
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Shingles Treatment: Home Remedies
Bathing is generally allowed, and the affected area can be washed with soap and water. Cool compresses and anti-itching lotions such as calamine lotion may also provide relief from symptoms. An aluminum acetate solution can be used to help dry up the blisters and oozing. Application of petroleum jelly can also aid in healing. Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and pain medicines can also help provide relief.
Wearing loose clothing can help avoid extra pain from clothing rubbing against the rash. Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with others who have not had chickenpox, are ill, or who have a weakened immune system to avoid spread of the virus. People who do not have immunity to the virus may catch varicella by having direct contact with the lesions. In this way zoster is similar to cold sores, which are caused by a virus in the same family as varicella.
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.
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Eczema Can Cause Red Itchy Skin With Bumps
Like shingles, a skin allergy can also cause red, bumpy, itchy skin, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology . These reactions include eczema, hives, and contact dermatitis. Eczema can cause dry, red, itchy, irritated skin, per the ACAAI. Small, oozing, fluid-filled bumps may also appear, especially when the skin is infected. Eczema is most common on the face, inside the elbows and behind the knees, and on the hands and feet, per MedlinePlus. There is no cure for eczema, but treatments can help manage the condition.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles
Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash on your skin. If you get shingles, you may notice the following:
Before the rash appears: For 1 to 2 days before the rash appears, you may have pain, burning, or tingling on an area of skin where the rash will develop. Some people say they felt an electrical sensation on their skin before getting the rash.
Rash appears: A painful, blistering rash appears. It usually appears on one side of your body, often on the torso however, it can appear anywhere on your skin. Some people get more blisters after the rash appears, so it can seem that the rash is spreading.
Rash starts to clear: As the rash clears, the blisters may crack open, bleed, and scab over. For most people, the rash will clear within 2 to 4 weeks.
Although the rash will clear on its own, treatment is important. Taking medication within 3 days of getting the shingles rash can:
Reduce your risk of developing other health problems, such as long-lasting nerve pain, pneumonia, or hearing loss
Shingles rash on the face
If you have a shingles rash on your face, immediately seeing a doctor for treatment could save your eyesight.
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Other Health Problems Due To Shingles
Some people develop other health problems after the shingles rash clears, which include:
Postherpetic neuralgia : This is the most common. Occurring where you had the rash, PHN can cause constant tingling, burning, and pain. For others, the pain comes and goes.
Whether the pain is constant or intermittent, it can go on for a long time. You can have PHN for months, years, or the rest of your life. There is no way to know how long it will last.
The pain caused by PHN can become so severe that it interferes with your life, making everyday activities painful. A musician may no longer be able to play an instrument. Some people cannot walk comfortably. It may be difficult to bathe or get dressed. You may have trouble sleeping.
How to prevent PHN: If you have shingles, you can greatly reduce your risk of PHN by getting treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash.
Get treated for shingles within 3 days of developing the rash
Taking antiviral medication within 3 days of getting the shingles rash can: Reduce your risk of developing PHN Ease symptoms of shingles Clear the shingles rash more quickly
Other health problems that can develop after the shingles rash clears include:
Blindness or loss of some eyesight
Although rare, some people die of shingles.
Treatment can prevent these complications.
You can find out if you have a greater risk of developing shingles at, Shingles: Causes.
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 youve 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.
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What Causes Shingles And Who Is At Risk
If youve had chickenpox in the past you can develop shingles.
This is because the inactive chickenpox virus stays in your nerve cells near your spine. When shingles develops its because the virus has become active again. Usually, a person will only get shingles once in their lives, but it can sometime occur again if you have a weakened immune system.
Shingles is more likely to occur in people who:
- are aged over 50
- have weakened immune systems, for example:
- have HIV or AIDS
- have had an organ transplant
- have recently had a bone marrow transplant
- have a condition which requires treatment that affects the immune system, such as chemotherapy for cancer.
Shingles Symptoms: After The Rash
Just like the blisters of chickenpox, the blisters in shingles eventually burst, and the area starts to ooze. The blisters will then crust over and heal. Before the blisters crust over, the VZV virus can be spread to anyone who is not immune to chickenpox through vaccination or previous infection. Herpes zoster spreads when a person who lacks immunity has direct contact with the blisters of someone who has the virus. The scabs eventually fall off, and the rash disappears. Sometimes scarring may result.
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Shingles Symptoms: Before The Rash
The pain of shingles may develop even when there is no rash. The patient may experience tingling, burning pain, or sensitive skin for several days to a week before the rash appears. It may be difficult to determine the cause of the severe pain in the absence of a skin rash.
Characteristics of Pre-Rash Shingles Pain
Other Symptoms That May Occur Before Shingles Rash
You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
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If You Have More Than One Area Of Blisters What Can You Expect If You Go To The Hospital
Its important to note that most people with shingles dont need to be in a hospital, but if you do:
- Youll be in a 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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