Dispatchhealth Is Here To Help
DispatchHealth brings complex medical care out of an expensive hospital setting and right to your door. This enables you to be safely treated and recover faster at a dramatically lower cost. Our medical teams will come prepared with nearly all the tools and technologies found in a traditional ER setting, treating compromised individuals with shingles and skin infections who are more likely to develop severe complications from the illness.
To request care, simply contact us via phone, mobile app, or our website.
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.
Symptoms And Complications Of Shingles
During the 2 or 3 days before shingles develops, most people have pain, a tingling sensation, or itching in a strip of skin on one side of the body. Clusters of small, fluid-filled blisters surrounded by a small red area then develop on the strip of skin. Typically, the blisters occur only on the limited area of skin supplied by the infected nerve fibers. Most often, blisters appear on the trunk, usually on only one side. However, a few blisters may also appear elsewhere on the body. Typically, blisters continue to form for about 3 to 5 days. The affected area is usually sensitive to any stimulus, including light touch, and may be very painful.
Shingles symptoms are usually less severe in children than in adults.
The blisters begin to dry and form a scab about 5 days after they appear. Until scabs appear, the blisters are contagious and contain varicella-zoster virus, which, if spread to susceptible people, can cause chickenpox. Having many blisters outside the affected dermatome or having blisters that persist for more than 2 weeks usually indicates that the immune system is not functioning normally.
Rarely, the affected skin becomes infected by bacteria. Scratching the blisters increases this risk. Bacterial infections increase the risk of scarring.
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How Is Eczema Treated
See a doctor if you develop eczema symptoms for the first time. Your doctor can examine your skin and confirm if eczema is causing your symptoms.
If your doctor thinks you have eczema, theyll explain how to manage your symptoms. This might include consulting a dermatologist.
Similarly, if youve already been diagnosed with eczema, be sure to continue following your medical professionals recommendations.
Like shingles, eczema has no cure, but treatment and self-care can help decrease flare-ups and protect your skin. This may include:
Is The Shingles Rash Dangerous
The shingles rash doesnt usually cause any long-term damage to your body. However, if your rash develops on your face or ears, it can cause long-term issues Ill explain the full risks in the section below.
No matter how minor your case of shingles you should still go see your doctor to get treatment for your shingles. Theyâll likely provide you with medication to ease your pain and help fight the virus.
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Who Should Not Get The Vaccine
Do not get the shingles vaccine if:
- You have a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, to any ingredient of a vaccine or to a previous dose of Shingrix
- You have shingles now.
You are sick with an illness and a fever of 101Â°F or higher.
- You should also consider delaying the vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Not enough is known about its safety for expectant and lactating women.
- You have had a negative test for varicella this would be uncommon for adults eligible for the vaccine, as most adults worldwide ages 50 and older have been exposed to the virus. You do not have to be tested before getting the vaccine.
Contact Dermatitis Can Cause A Rash And Blisters
Contact dermatitis can also cause a rash, blisters, itching, and burning, per the ACAAI. It occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or an allergen, such as soaps, laundry detergents, shampoos, metals, medications, and more. Allergens like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can cause red, itchy rashes that may include blisters. Treatment can offer relief and aid healing.
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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.
lauraag / Getty Images
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 Can Shingles Be Prevented
The Shringrix vaccine can protect against shingles and complications from the disease. The CDC recommends that all healthy adults age 50 or older, whether or not theyve had chickenpox, get two doses of the vaccine. Because people can get shingles more than once, vaccination is recommended even for people who have already had the disease.
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Who Is At Risk For Getting Shingles
People who have had chickenpox who are more likely to develop shingles include those:
- With a weakened immune system .
- Over the age of 50.
- Who have been ill.
- Who have experienced trauma.
- Who are under stress.
The chickenpox virus doesnt leave your body after you have chickenpox. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Researchers aren’t always sure why the virus gets reactivated, but this typically occurs at times of stress.
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 Do You Get Shingles
Everyone who has had chickenpox has VZV in their body and is at risk for getting shingles. Right now, there is no way of knowing who will get the disease. But, some things make it more likely:
- Advanced age. The risk of getting shingles increases as you age. People may have a harder time fighting off infections as they get older. About half of all shingles cases are in adults age 60 or older. The chance of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70.
- Trouble fighting infections. Your immune system is the part of your body that responds to infections. Age can affect your immune system. So can an HIV infection, cancer, cancer treatments, too much sun, or organ transplant drugs. Even stress or a cold can weaken your immune system for a short time. These all can put you at risk for shingles.
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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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.
When To Call Your Healthcare Provider
While most skin rashes are not life-threatening, a rash can sometimes mean something more serious is happening in your body.
If you have a rash and notice any of the following symptoms, you should contact your healthcare provider for an evaluation:
- The rash hurts.
- The rash comes and goes.
- The rash is made up of blisters or open sores, or the sores affect the skin around your eyes, mouth, or genitals.
- The rash prevents you from getting sleep or interferes with your daily activities.
In some cases, a rash can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Should you notice any of the following, call 911 or go to the emergency room:
- The rash is all over your body or is spreading rapidly. This could mean you are having an allergic reaction.
- The rash is painful, oozing pus, swollen, warm to the touch, or there is a red streak coming from the rash. These are signs that the rash is infected.
- The rash is accompanied by a fever, which could mean you have an infection. It can also be a sign of a disease such as herpes, measles, shingles, or mononucleosis.
- The rash is accompanied by dizziness, difficulty breathing, vomiting, a stiff neck, or any other unusual or worrisome symptoms.
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Complications Of Shingles In The Eye
The shingles rash will fade after a few weeks, but the pain can continue for many more weeks or months. This complication is caused by nerve damage called postherpetic neuralgia, which is more common in older adults. In most people, the nerve pain will get better over time.
In the eye, swelling of the cornea may be severe enough to leave permanent scars. Shingles can also cause swelling of the retina. It can also increase eye pressure and lead to glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve. You can also develop an injury to the cornea.
Treating shingles in the eye right away can help you avoid long-term problems, including permanent vision loss.
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Skin Allergies: Causes & Symptoms Of The Reaction
Skin allergies and stress are two common causes of skin rashes, but an allergic skin reaction can look very similar to the shingles rashmaking the two skin conditions difficult to differentiate. To spot the difference, its important to ask your resident or the elderly loved one in question about any recent changes in his or her routine. An allergic skin reaction can be caused by medication, exposure to an outdoor skin allergen , or exposure to new cosmetics . These allergic reactions can look like sporadic or irregularly shaped red sores on the skin. This flat or raised irritation can be itchy and bumpy, and even lead to blisters. However, unlike shingles, allergic skin rashes like this will often clear up on their ownwith most gone around two weeks after exposure.
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Timeline Of Shingles Symptoms
Shingles actually doesn’t occur without a prior chickenpox infection. VZV lies dormant in nerve roots after you recover where it can reactivate years later, returning as shingles. But though they share the same viral cause, the two conditions are distinct.
The first sign of shingles is usually a burning or stinging sensation in a band-like formation around the waist, chest, stomach, or back.
You may experience itching or become incredibly sensitive to even the softest touch. The weight of bed sheets on your skin may be uncomfortable. You may also experience fatigue, fever, and headache.
After a few days or even up to a couple of weeks, the telltale shingles rash will appear. This rash consists of fluid-filled blisters that worsen quickly. The blisters may look like chickenpox, but they are clustered together.
The shingles rash can vary in color, depending on your skin tone. On darker skin, the rash may be pink, grayish, dark brown, or even purple. On lighter skin, it will be red.
This is the stage at which VZV can be passed on to someone who has never had or been vaccinated against chickenpox.
Blisters typically scab over within a week to 10 days. Shingles typically takes three to five weeks to progress through all of its stages.
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.
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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.
What Are The Complications Of Shingles
Symptoms of shingles usually dont last longer than 3 to 5 weeks. However, complications can happen. The main complications that can result from shingles include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia . The most common complication of shingles is called postherpetic neuralgia . This continuous, chronic pain lasts even after the skin lesions have healed. The pain may be severe in the area where the blisters were present. The affected skin may be very sensitive to heat and cold. If you had severe pain during the active rash or have impaired senses, you are at increased risk for PHN. The elderly are also at greater risk. Early treatment of shingles may prevent PHN. Pain relievers and steroid treatment may be used to treat the pain and inflammation. Other treatments include antiviral drugs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents.
- Bacterial infection. A bacterial infection of the skin where the rash happens is another complication. Rarely, infections can lead to more problems, such as tissue death and scarring. When an infection happens near or on the eyes, a corneal infection can happen. This can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
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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.
What About Stress Rashes
Stress can indeed cause rashes and hives.
When you are stressed, your body produces above-normal levels of cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can affect how your skin reacts, making it more sensitive and susceptible to skin ailments.
You may have noticed your skin breaking out in times of high stress. Rashes and hives are just another type of reaction. Though, for unknown reasons, it is not clear why stress exacerbates chronic skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea.
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Is Chickenpox And Shingles A Form Of Herpes
Though shingles and herpes are two distinct conditions caused by two distinct viruses, the viruses are both members of a family formally known as herpesviridae. The herpes simplex virus takes its formal name from this umbrella term, while the varicella-zoster virus does not.
Although it is a condition unrelated to herpes, shingles is sometimes referred to as herpes zoster, a nickname that references the shared family of the viruses that cause them. Within this viral family, only the herpes simplex virus causes the condition we know today as herpes.
If you are ever unsure whether your doctor is referring to herpes simplex or shingles when you hear the word herpes, ask for clarification.