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.
What Other Problems Can Shingles Cause
Shingles can cause complications:
- Postherpetic neuralgia is most common complication of shingles. It causes severe pain in the areas where you had the shingles rash. It usually gets better in a few weeks or months. But some people can have pain from PHN for many years, and it can interfere with daily life.
- Vision loss can happen if shingles affects your eye. It may be temporary or permanent.
- Hearing or balance problems are possible if you have shingles within or near your ear. You may also have weakness of the muscles on that side of your face. These problems can be temporary or permanent.
Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, brain inflammation , or death.
Diagnosing Chickenpox And Shingles
The doctor will usually be able to diagnose chickenpox or shingles by inspecting the rash and marks, noting your signs and symptoms, and asking you about your vaccination history. They can also do several tests to confirm that you have the varicella virus, such as:
- Blood test: A needle is inserted into a vein and a vial of blood is removed. The blood is then tested for the varicella virus or its antibodies.
- Blister test: A fluid sample is taken from a blister with a cotton swab. Its then tested for varicella or antibody properties.
If you think you or your child could have chickenpox, contact your doctor. Since chickenpox is highly contagious, the doctors office may have procedures that safeguard against infection. Its best to call first and inform them about your reason for visiting.
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Are Chickenpox And Shingles Serious Illnesses
The symptoms may be more severe in newborns, persons with weakened immune systems, and adults. Serious problems can occur and may include pneumonia , brain infection , and kidney problems. Many people are not aware that before a vaccine was available, approximately 10,600 persons were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died, as a result of chickenpox in the U.S. every year.
What Triggers Shingles In Some People And Not Others
Experts dont fully understand this. One theory is that shingles occurs when your immune system loses its ability to keep the virus in check.
After you get chickenpox, your immune system is able to recognize the varicella-zoster virus thanks to specialized immune system cells, called B and T cells, that are able to remember the virus and quickly marshal an attack on it. Factors that weaken the immune system increase your risk of developing shingles. These include
- certain illnesses, such as HIV , cancer, or autoimmune conditions.
- medicines that suppress your immune system, such as cancer drugs, steroids, medications to treat autoimmune conditions, and drugs given to patients who undergo an organ transplant to keep their bodies from rejecting it.
- age-related changes: shingles can occur in people of any age, including children, but is most common in people over age 60. Your immune system may become weaker as you get older. While its not totally clear why this happens, it may be due to a decline in T cells. Some experts also think that as you age, the bone marrow produces fewer stem cells, the progenitors of T cells and B cells. With fewer of these white cell soldiers in the army, the immune system might not be able to mount as powerful a response to invaders as it once did.
- certain genetic factors: past studies have indicated that an increased susceptibility to shingles can run in families, according to the National Institutes of Health.
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Am I At Risk For Shingles
Everyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles. Researchers do not fully understand what makes the virus become active and cause shingles. But some things make it more likely:
- Older age. The risk of developing shingles increases as you age. 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 HIV, cancer, cancer treatments, too much sun, and 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.
Most people only have shingles one time. However, it is possible to have it more than once.
What Are The Risk Factors For Recurring Shingles
People dont know what causes recurring shingles, but certain factors increase your chances of getting shingles again.
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get shingles again. One study determined that the rate of shingles recurrence was among people with compromised immune systems. This is about 2.4 times higher than for those who didnt have compromised immune systems.
You may have a compromised immune system if you:
- are getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- have organ transplants
- are taking high doses of corticosteroids like prednisone
Additional risk factors include:
- longer-lasting and more severe pain with the first case of shingles
- pain for 30 days or more with the first case of shingles
- being over the age of 50
Having one or more blood relatives with shingles may also increase your risk of getting shingles.
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When Should I Get The Shingles Vaccine
The current shingles vaccine is a safe, easy, and more effective way to prevent shingles than the previous vaccine. In fact, it is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. Most adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, which is given in two doses. You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies.
You should get the shingles vaccine if you:
- Have already had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or shingles
- Received the prior shingles vaccine called Zostavax
- Dont remember having had chickenpox
Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
You should not get vaccinated if you:
- Currently have shingles
- Are sick or have a fever
- Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the shingles vaccine
If you are unsure about the above criteria or have other health concerns, talk with your doctor before getting the vaccine.
I’m Pregnant And Have Recently Been Exposed To Someone With Chickenpox How Will This Exposure Affect Me Or My Pregnancy
- Susceptible pregnant women are at risk for associated complications when they contract varicella. Varicella infection causes severe illness in pregnant women, and 10%-20% of those infected develop varicella pneumonia, with mortality reported as high as 40%.
- Because of these risks, pregnant women without evidence of immunity to varicella who have been exposed to the virus may be given varicella-zoster immune globulin to reduce their risk of disease complications.
- If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, and you get chickenpox during the:
- First half of your pregnancy, there is a very slight risk for birth defects or miscarriage.
- Second half of your pregnancy, the baby may have infection without having any symptoms and then get shingles later in life.
- Newborns whose mothers develop varicella rash from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery are at risk for neonatal varicella, associated with mortality as high as 30%. These infants should receive preventive treatment with varicella-zoster immune globulin .
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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.
- Currently have shingles.
- 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.
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.
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What Are The Symptoms
The first sign of shingles is often burning, sharp pain, tingling, or numbness in your skin on one side of your body or face. The most common site is the back or upper abdomen. You may have severe itching or aching. You also may feel tired and ill with fever, chills, headache, and upset stomach or belly pain.
One to 14 days after you start feeling pain, you will notice a rash of small blisters on reddened skin. Within a few days after they appear, the blisters will turn yellow, then dry and crust over. Over the next 2 weeks the crusts drop off, and the skin continues to heal over the next several days to weeks.
Because shingles usually follows nerve paths, the blisters are usually found in a line, often extending from the back or side around to the belly. The blisters are almost always on just one side of the body. Shingles usually doesn’t cross the midline of the body. The rash also may appear on one side of your face or scalp. The painful rash may be in the area of your ear or eye. When shingles occurs on the head or scalp, symptoms can include headaches and weakness of one side of the face, which causes that side of the face to look droopy. The symptoms usually go away eventually, but it may take many months.
In some cases the pain can last for weeks, months, or years, long after the rash heals. This is called postherpetic neuralgia.
Could Covid Increase Your Risk For Shingles
MONDAY, April 11, 2022 — Catching COVID-19 appears to increase an older person’s risk of developing a case of shingles.
Researchers found that people 50 and older who had a COVID infection were 15% more likely to develop shingles, compared to people who were never infected. That risk climbed to 21% in people hospitalized with a severe case of COVID.
“It is important that health care professionals and people 50-plus are aware of this potential increased risk so patients can be diagnosed and treated early if they develop shingles following COVID-19,” said lead researcher Dr. Amit Bhavsar, director of clinical research and development for the pharmaceutical company GSK in Brussels.
The virus that causes chicken pox, varicella zoster, hides in people’s nerve cells after they’ve gotten over their initial case of the infectious disease, explained Dr. Carrie Kovarik, a professor of dermatology and medicine with the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
In some cases, varicella zoster will reemerge later in life and cause shingles, usually due to a faltering immune system.
“Your T-cells are what keep the chicken pox virus contained,” Kovarik said. “When your T-cells aren’t doing the job — you’d had an illness or you get stressed or you get old — the chicken pox virus can come out down the nerve and onto your skin. It can’t hold onto it any longer.”
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What Are The Complications Associated With Shingles
Shingles is not usually dangerous to healthy individuals although it can cause great misery during an attack. Anyone with shingles on the upper half of their face, no matter how mild, should seek medical care at once because of the risk of damage to the eye. Very rarely, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation or death. For about one person in five, severe pain can continue even after the rash clears up. This pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia. As people get older, they are more likely to develop post-herpetic neuralgia, and it is more likely to be severe.
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.
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Assess Your Pain Levels
In general, most people with active shingles infections can perform daily activities as tolerated, but rating your pain can help you decide when to do a specific exercise or activity and when to avoid it. Consider using a numerical pain rating scale, which has you rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible pain.
Make a note of your pain level each day and if a particular activity worsened it. Consider writing it down in a journal or as a note in your phone. That way, you can track which activities affect your pain levels and adjust accordingly.
Is There A Vaccine For Shingles
There are two shingles vaccines currently available, Shingrix and Zostavax. Shingrix vaccine, a newer vaccine, is preferred over Zostavax for the prevention of shingles and its complications. Two doses of Shingrix given 2 to 6 months apart are recommended for healthy adults 50 years of age and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults who have previously received Zostavax. A single dose of Zostavax may still be used to prevent shingles in certain cases for healthy adults 60 years and older.
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Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 As Soon As You Suspect Shingles
You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems.
This works best if taken within 3 days of your symptoms starting.
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to 111.nhs.uk or .
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to treat you.
Ask your GP surgery for an urgent appointment.
How Are Chickenpox And Shingles Different
When a person, usually a child, who has not received the chickenpox vaccine is exposed to VZV, he or she usually develops chickenpox, a highly contagious disease that can be spread by breathing as well as by contact with the rash. The infection begins in the upper respiratory tract where the virus incubates for 15 days or more. VZV then spreads to the bloodstream and migrates to the skin, giving rise to the familiar chickenpox rash.
In contrast, you cant catch shingles from someone else. You must already have been exposed to chickenpox and harbor the virus in your nervous system to develop shingles. When reactivated, the virus travels down nerves to the skin, causing the painful shingles rash. In shingles, the virus does not normally spread to the bloodstream or lungs, so the virus is not shed in air.
But a person with a shingles rashwhich contains active virus particlescan pass the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox or who has not been vaccinated. In this case, the person will develop chickenpox, not shingles. A person must come into direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Merely being in the same room with someone who has shingles will not cause chickenpox. Children who develop chicken pox generally fully recover however, adults who develop chicken pox can become seriously ill.
Likewise, a person with chickenpox cannot give shingles to someone elsebut they can pass the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox.
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While The Science Hasn’t Proven A Direct Casual Link There Is Some Kind Of Stress
by Health Writer
One could easily say that shinglesthe painful, blistering reemergence of the virus that gave you chicken pox when you were a kidis itself a very stressful situation. And, to make matters trickier, its possible that some particularly anxiety-producing experience preceded the outbreak, triggering the rash in the first place. What have researchers learned about the stress-shingles connection, and what do physicians who treat it have to say on the subject? Relax as much as you canand read on.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Shingles
The varicella-zoster virus the virus that causes chicken pox and shingles is part of a group of viruses called herpes viruses. This group also includes the viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes.
If youve had chicken pox, you can get shingles. After the chicken pox is over, varicella-zoster lies inactive, mainly in spinal or cranial nerves. Sometimes the virus reactivates, and thats when it travels along the nerves to erupt as a rash on your skin, causing shingles.
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