Key Points About Shingles
- Shingles is a common viral infection of the nerves. It causes a painful rash or small blisters on an area of skin.
- Shingles is caused when the chickenpox virus is reactivated.
- It is more common in people with weakened immune systems, and in people over the age of 50.
- Shingles starts with skin sensitivity, tingling, itching, and/or pain followed by rash that looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters.
- The rash is typically affects just one area on one side of the body or face.
- Treatment that is started as soon as possible helps reduce the severity of the disease.
Shingles And Your Eyes
If the shingles rash breaks out on the face, near the eye, the vision may be affected. An ophthalmologist should be consulted right away when pain or other symptoms of shingles affect the eye or the area near the eye.
Shingles painand other symptoms from an outbreak of herpes zosterusually lasts between three to five weeks. Most people experience shingles once, but in some instances, people will continue to experience pain. When this happens, its called postherpetic neuralgia .
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Articles On Shingles Treatment
The virus that causes chickenpox is also what causes shingles. Itâs called varicella zoster. It can lie quietly in your nerves for decades after causing chickenpox but suddenly wake up and become active.
The main symptom of shingles is a painful rash that comes up on one side of your body or face. See your doctor as soon as you can if you think you might have this condition.
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What Is The Treatment For Shingles
While there is no cure for shingles, prompt treatment with prescription antiviral drugs and pain medicine can speed healing and reduce the risk of complications, explains Dr. Danoff.
Additional courses of treatment include:
- Keeping sores and blisters clean
- Taking prescription medication as directed
- Being honest and forthcoming with your doctor about lingering symptoms such as chronic pain
Dr. Danoff also recommends that adults 50 years or older speak with their physician about Zostavax, an immunization designed to reduce the risk of getting shingles.
Get Medical Care For Shingles Immediately
If you have a blistering rash, you want to see a doctor as soon as possible. Should you have shingles, starting prescription medication within 2 to 3 days of developing the rash can dramatically:
Reduce your symptoms, such as pain
Lessen the amount of time you have shingles
Lower your risk of developing other health problems, such as a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is pain that can linger for months or years after the rash clears
If youve had the rash for longer than 2 or 3 days, its still important to see a doctor. Shingles can lead to other health problems aside from long-lasting pain. For example, when the shingles rash develops on your face, it can affect your eyesight. Treatment can save your eyesight.
A few people who get shingles develop pneumonia, hearing loss, or a disease that causes the brain to swell . Its important to find signs of these early, so that you can receive treatment.
When you see your doctor, you may hear the medical term herpes zoster. This is the medical name for shingles.
Get medical care immediately
Getting medical treatment within 3 days of developing the shingles rash can greatly reduce your risk of developing long-lasting pain.
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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.
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.
How Dermatologists Diagnose Shingles
Your dermatologist will make a clinical diagnosis of shingles by examining the skin rash where you are experiencing pain and blistering. Sometimes it may be necessary to take a small skin sample for further testing to rule out other conditions. Your dermatologist may also ask about your medical history, including whether youve had chickenpox, undergone radiation or chemotherapy treatment, take any immunosuppressive medications, and whether you have any diseases that weaken your immune system.
People older than 60 years old are at higher risk for developing shingles as well as experiencing complications from the virus, including lasting nerve pain and vision problems if the infection involves the nerves around the eye.
What Can I Do About The Pain
To help with the pain of shingles, your doctor might have you take an over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen . Aspirin is not recommended because you might also get Reye’s syndrome, a liver problem.
Putting a medicated lotion on the blisters might help the pain and itching. Putting cool compresses soaked in an astringent liquid on the blisters and sores also might make them hurt or itch less.
If shingles causes severe pain, your doctor might have you take a prescription pain medicine.
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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.
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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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will do a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history, specifically about whether you have ever had chickenpox.
Your healthcare provider will likely know right away that it is shingles based on the unique rash. The rash usually appears one area on one side of the body or face. It appears as red spots, small fluid- or pus-filled vesicles, or scabs.
The healthcare provider may also take skin scrapings for testing.
A Word About The Shingles Vaccine
If you are age 60 or over and have not had shingles, talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine. Not only will it reduce your risk of developing shingles, but if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. And, just as important, youll be much less likely to develop PHN if youve had the vaccine.
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed And Treated
If you think you might have shingles, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Its important to see your doctor no later than three days after the rash starts. The doctor will confirm whether you have shingles and can make a treatment plan. Most cases can be diagnosed from a visual examination. If you have a condition that weakens the immune system, your doctor may order a shingles test. Although there is no cure for shingles, early treatment with antiviral medications can help the blisters clear up faster and limit severe pain. Shingles can often be treated at home.
How Common Is Postherpetic Neuralgia
Varicella-zoster virus causes both chickenpox and shingles. About 99% of Americans over age 40 have had chickenpox. About one in three people in the U.S. develop shingles in their lifetime. Some 10 to 18% of people who get shingles will develop postherpetic neuralgia. Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles.
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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.
Shingles And Nerve Paths
Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. Only people whove had chickenpox or chickenpox vaccines can develop shingles. Having a chickenpox vaccine can lead to shingles because the vaccine contains the virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles isnt contagious, but people who have not had chickenpox can develop chickenpox if they come in contact with open blisters of somebody with shingles.
After your body fights off a chickenpox infection, the herpes zoster virus remains dormant in your cranial nerves and spinal ganglia until it becomes reactivated. Spinal ganglia are nerve cells that connect your spinal cord to nerves in your body and limbs.
The virus reactivates when your immune system is no longer able to suppress it. Reactivation most commonly occurs in older adults because the immune system tends to get weaker with age, as well as in people with suppressed immune systems.
Once the virus is active, it usually spreads down sensory nerve fibers that lead from your spinal cord to your skin. These nerves carry sensory information like feelings of pain, itchiness, or pressure from your skin to your spinal cord and brain.
Once the virus gets to the end of these sensory nerves, it reaches your skin and usually leads to a rash. This rash often shows up in one or two nearby areas of skin called dermatomes.
A dermatome is an area of your skin where the sensation is supplied by one spinal nerve.
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What Is The Best Medication For Shingles
Your healthcare provider will determine the best medication for your case of shingles based on your symptoms, medical history, and response to shingles treatment. Heres an overview of the popular shingles medications that your doctor may prescribe.
|Best medication for shingles|
|One 0.65 ml injection in the upper arm||Irritation of the injection site or chickenpox-like rash near the injection site or headache|
Dosage is determined by your healthcare provider based on your medical condition, response to treatment, age, and weight.
Other possible side effects exist. This is not a complete list.
What If You Have Shingles Around Or In Your Eye
Community Eye Health
On the surface, says Dr. Taylor, they mainly show up on the cornea, which is the clear dome of tissue that covers your iris , and the conjunctiva the clear tissue that covers the whites of your eye and the inside of your eyelid.
If shingles is in these places, she says, youll be prescribed eye drops with steroids to calm the lesions, and lubricating tears for comfort.
If you have had shingles in your eye, says Taylor, your eye doctor will monitor you for 3 to 12 months to make sure that your eye is returning to health and that no new developments have occurred. You may also be encouraged to have a yearly eye exam until otherwise instructed by your eye doctor.
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How Does Shingles Spread
Someone with shingles can pass the virus to someone who hasnt had chickenpox or shingles before. That person is likely to contract chickenpox first. Then, the virus may reactivate later with symptoms of shingles.
The virus cannot be passed to someone who has already had chickenpox because they already have the virus. If they experience shingles, its because they already had the virusnot because they came into contact with you.
You can go to work, school, and other public places with shingles as long as youre otherwise healthy. However, you should take precautions and keep the shingles rash covered, regularly wash your hands, and avoid at-risk people. Infants, children, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems are at higher risk for contracting a virus, like shingles, than other people.
Who Should Get Shingrix
Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix. If needed, people with weakened immune systems can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first.
You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Received varicella vaccine
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called zoster vaccine live is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
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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
How Long Does It Take For Shingles To Progress
Shingles progresses into blisters over three to five days and begins to crust over after seven to ten days. The rash is preceded by a prodromal phase lasting 48-72 hours or longer, consisting of throbbing pain and numbness in the area affecting the nerve. Once the rash blisters, it can last another three to five days before the lesions scab over.
After the lesions crust over, it may take two to four weeks to heal completely. At this time, pain may still be present. The most painful stage of shingles is when you have fluid-filled blisters. This usually occurs three to five days after the rash first appears.
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How Do You Get Shingles
Shingles are primarily seen in older adults and those with weakened immune systems caused by injury, certain medications, stress, or other issues. Most of those afflicted with shingles eventually get better and do not get it again. However, it is possible to get shingles more than once in your lifetime. When the virus is reactivated, it does not cause a recurrence of chickenpox only the shingles rashes appear.
Those who may be at risk from shingles include:
- People with diseases such as cancer or HIV
- Those who have had an organ transplant
- Those who are unable to fight off infection easily due to immune deficiencies or stress
Natural Remedies For Shingles
If you had chickenpox as a child, the shingles virus lies dormant in your body. The virus can reactivate later in life and cause a shingles rash. The rash can occur on any part of your body but typically only affects small sections.
Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. The rash and fluid-filled blisters form within a couple of days after the onset of pain. Some people with shingles also have a fever, sensitivity to light, and fatigue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime.
The shingles virus can last between two and six weeks. Shingles isnt life-threatening, but some people experience postherpetic neuralgia. This is when nerve fibers become damaged, causing shingles pain that lasts for weeks or months after the rash clears.
Theres no cure for shingles, but your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication to help shorten the duration of the virus and reduce symptoms.
Although an antiviral is an effective treatment for shingles, its not the only option. Several natural remedies may also reduce pain and discomfort.
Dry your body completely and then wash your towel to avoid spreading the virus to others.
- orange and yellow fruits
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