What Complications Are There From Shingles
Complications are very rare, but they include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia This is a condition where the nerve pain continues to trouble the person even after the rash is completely gone.
- Skin infectionThe skin around the rash comes tender and inflamed because of a bacterial infection. In such cases, you may need a course of antibiotics.
- Eye problemsIn rare cases, shingles of the eye can occur. If left untreated, the inflammation could even cause loss of vision. Seek medical help if you find it troubling your vision or makes your eye itchy.
- WeaknessOccasionally, the affected nerve controls a motor function and not sensory. This could lead to weakness in the muscles affected by the nerve.
- Various other rare complicationsThese are rare. The infection may spread to the brain or spread throughout the body as opposed to confining the rash to the area where the nerve supplies the skin. People with severely compromised immune systems are likely to develop complications.
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How Long Does Shingles Last
Most cases of shingles last three to five weeks.
- The first sign is often burning or tingling pain sometimes it includes numbness or itching on one side of the body.
- Somewhere between one and five days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear.
- A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters.
- About one week to 10 days after that, the blisters dry up and crust over.
- A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.
Other Complications Some Severe Include:
- Bacterial infection of the rash
- Herpes zoster ophthalmicus causes eye problems when shingles is severe on the face, near the eyes, impacting sight. When very severe, blindness can occur
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome causes problems within the ear’s auditory canal or external parts. It is accompanied by ear pain, internal or external blisters, and one-sided facial paralysis
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Can You Get Shingles If You Havent Had Chickenpox
No. You cant get shingles if youve never had chickenpox, but you can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If youve never had chickenpox and you come into direct contact with the oozing, blister-like rash of someone with shingles, the varicella-zoster virus can infect you and you would develop chickenpox.
Once youve had chickenpox, you could develop shingles at some point in your life. This is because the varicella-zoster virus never fully goes away after youve had chickenpox. It lies quietly inactive in your nerve tissue. Later in life, the virus may become active again and appears as shingles.
Can you get chickenpox more than once?
Its rare to get chickenpox twice in your life. Once youve had chickenpox, youre usually immune to it for the rest of your life. However, its not totally impossible. If you have a severely weakened immune system , you can get chickenpox a second time. If youve had chickenpox, you are more likely to get shingles at some point in your life than a repeat bout of chickenpox.
If My Shingles Rash Is Mild Or Has Mostly Healed Do I Need To See A Doctor
Its a good idea to see a doctor whenever you have a case of shingles, no matter how mild.
Prompt antiviral treatment not only decreases the duration and severity of the rash but can also decrease the chance of developing post-herpetic neuralgia. Post-herpetic neuralgia is a complication of shingles characterized by long-term, debilitating pain.
If your rash has mostly healed, its still a good idea to see a doctor so they can monitor the rash for changes or complications, such as a bacterial skin infection that forms on top of your existing rash. This is known as a superimposed 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.
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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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.
Steroid Medication For Shingles
Steroids help to reduce swelling . A short course of steroid tablets may be considered in addition to antiviral medication. This may help to reduce pain and speed healing of the rash. However, the use of steroids in shingles is controversial. Your doctor will advise you. Steroids do not prevent PHN.
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Herpes Zoster Differs From Other Types Of Herpes
Hearing the word herpes can be confusing. Herpes zoster is not a sexually transmitted infection . It cannot cause genital herpes. Herpes zoster also doesnt cause cold sores. Both genital herpes and cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus.
The virus that causes shingles and chickenpox is called the varicella-zoster virus. Its common.
Will Shingles Go Away Without Treatment
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus . This is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
This virus remains dormant in a part of your nervous system called the dorsal root ganglion. It can be reactivated during times of stress or illness, or when the immune system is weakened by an autoimmune disease or cancer.
The risk of developing shingles is relatively low for healthy young adults about 4 out of 1,000 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Its much higher for those above age 60. Shingles affects about 1 out of 100 people in this older age group, the CDC says.
Generally, a case of shingles rash resolves within 3 to 4 weeks. It can resolve without treatment, but antiviral treatment can shorten both the duration and severity of the rash.
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Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body
The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of your body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area. It doesnt spread over your whole body. Your torso is a common area, as is your face.
When Should You Consult A Physician
If you notice a persistent pain or a widespread itchy rash on your body, Dr. Danoff recommends scheduling an immediate appointment with your physician.
For people over 60, its especially important to get medical care at the first sign of shingles.
For people over 60, it is especially important to get medical care at the first signs of shingles, as sometimes pain in the affected area can linger months to years following an outbreak if the nerves have been damaged, explains Dr. Danoff. Immediate care is also crucial in preventing possible complications, such as:
- Vision lossa possible result of eye infections caused by shingles in or around an eye
- Neurological problemse.g. inflammation of the brain, facial paralysis, or hearing/ balance problems
- Post-herpetic neuralgiaa painful condition that may result from shingles and last for many weeks or months, even after the rash has disappeared
- Skin infectionsoccur when shingles blisters arent properly treated
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Diagnosing & Treating Shingles Online
Shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox varicella-zoster virus. If youve ever had chickenpox, the virus will stay inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. If the virus is reactivated it can cause shingles.
This condition is not life-threatening, but the outbreaks can be extremely painful. There are vaccines that can help reduce the risk of shingles and early treatment can help shorten a shingles outbreak.
Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles and can sometimes be mistaken for another problem depending on the location of the pain. When shingles affect areas near your heart, lungs or kidneys, they can be mistaken for something more serious. In most cases, shingles will start to develop in a rash that appears in a stripe of blisters wrapping around your torso.
You should see a doctor if you think there is any chance you may have shingles, but you should especially see a doctor in the following situations:
- The rash/pain is occurring near your eyes. This condition can lead to permanent eye damage if left untreated
- The rash is widespread and extremely painful
- You or someone in your family have a weakened immune system
- If your over 70
You and your online doctor can help determine the severity of your symptoms and what type of treatment is needed, or if a referral to a dermatologist or specialist is required.
Options for treatment of shingles may include:
- An antiviral drug
Is Shingles Contagious
If you are in contact with someone who has shingles, you will not get the symptoms of shingles yourself. However, direct contact with fluid from a shingles rash can still spread the varicella-zoster virus, which can cause chickenpox in people who have not had chickenpox before or the chickenpox vaccine. The risk of spreading the virus is low if the shingles rash is kept covered.
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How Common Is Shingles
Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin supplied by the nerve. It is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past may develop shingles. Shingles is sometimes called herpes zoster.
About 1 in 4 people have shingles at some time in their lives. It can occur at any age but it is most common in older adults . After the age of 50, it becomes increasingly more common as you get older. It is uncommon to have shingles more than once but some people do have it more than once.
How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Shingles
A dermatologist can often diagnose shingles by looking at the rash on your skin.
If there is any question about whether you have shingles, your dermatologist will scrape a bit of fluid from a blister. This will be sent to a lab where a doctor will look at the fluid under a high-powered microscope.
When you have shingles, the fluid contains the virus that causes shingles. Seeing the virus confirms that you have shingles.
Your dermatologist will also ask about your symptoms. Shingles tends to be painful.
When the shingles rash spreads to an eye, it can affect your eyesight
You can reduce this risk by seeing an ophthalmologist immediately.
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What The Research Says
What we do know is that when your immune system is compromised or distracted fighting off another virus, it tends to give the herpes zoster virus a chance to reactivate.
Past research has established that immune-suppressing medications like chemotherapy and corticosteroids as well as health conditions that attack your immune system like Crohns disease, HIV, and lupus increase your risk for a shingles outbreak.
Researchers are currently trying to understand whether COVID-19 may do the same thing.
Preliminary data suggests that this could be the case, but we do not know yet.
A small 2021 study involving 491 vaccinated people in Israel showed that six participants experienced shingles for the first time after getting their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. All six individuals had pre-existing conditions that lowered their natural immune response, and all six fully recovered after developing shingles.
This study prompted researchers to advocate for more studies on COVID-19 vaccines as possible triggers for the shingles virus.
Data gathered in Brazil also showed an increase of 10.7 cases of shingles per million inhabitants during the time of the pandemic.
Its impossible to know exactly how and to what extent the effect of increased stress of the pandemic and other factors played into these numbers increasing during that span of time. Stress has long been suspected to be a possible factor in developing shingles.
Do You Always Get The Typical Rash If You Have Shingles
Occasionally, some people dont get a rash. If you have any of the other symptoms of shingles , see your healthcare provider sooner rather than later. There are effective treatments you can take early for shingles. Even if you dont have shingles, seeing your healthcare provider will help you get your condition diagnosed and treated.
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Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used
Yes. The CDC, however, recommends Zostavax for adults age 60 and older, but not routinely for people aged 50 to 59. Zostavax is given as a single-dose shot versus the two-dose shot for Shingrix. Zostavax is less effective than Shingrix in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia .
You can consider Zostavax if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable because of supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because its a weakened live vaccine, it may be dangerous if you have cancer, HIV, or take steroids, chemotherapy or other medications that suppress your immune system. Ask your healthcare provider if the Zostavax vaccine is an option for you.
What Everyone Should Know About The Shingles Vaccine
CDC recommends that adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine called Shingrix to prevent shingles and the complications from the disease. Adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix, as they have a higher risk of getting shingles and related complications.
Your doctor or pharmacist can give you Shingrix as a shot in your upper arm.
Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN. In adults 50 years and older who have healthy immune systems, Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and PHN. Immunity stays strong for at least the first 7 years after vaccination. In adults with weakened immune systems, studies show that Shingrix is 68%-91% effective in preventing shingles, depending on the condition that affects the immune system.
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Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
What Does It Mean To Let Shingles Run Its Course
This refers to the typical course a shingles rash takes, even with antiviral treatment:
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Once You’ve Had Shingles Can It Come Back
Reoccurrence is relatively uncommon. Only a small percentage of patients may have a second episode, more commonly in women. “Three or more shingles episodes in the same person is considered extremely rare,” says Dr. Mohring. “In this case, it would prompt us to investigate other potential diseases that may be going on. Those with higher risk factors, especially weakened immune systems or autoimmune disease, are the most at risk for reoccurrence.”