Risks Associated With Shingles
Untreated shingles can lead to complications in certain people. This might include older adults and those with compromised immune systems. Complications in these groups could lead to death.
Learn about shingles, its complications and risk factors, and when to reach out to your healthcare provider.
hirun / Getty Images
Serious Symptoms That Might Indicate Complications Of Shingles
In some cases, shingles can affect the nerves of the face, eyes, or ears and cause serious symptoms and complications, such as facial paralysis or impaired vision and hearing. Get prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of shingles, particularly the following symptoms or conditions:
- painful, widespread rash, a symptom of disseminated shingles
- weakened immune system caused by a chronic condition or immune-suppressing medications
- rash near your eyes or involving the tip of the nose
What Are The Stages Of Shingles Symptoms
There are no formal, clinical stages of shingles, but symptoms generally fall into three stages. Beginning to end, shingles can last 24 weeks.
Contact your doctor right away if you have symptoms of shingles. Early treatment with antiviral medication may help lessen the severity, speed recovery time, and lower the potential for complications.
Don’t Miss: Can You Get Shingles From The New Vaccine
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.
Recommended Reading: How To Figure How Many Shingles You Need
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.
You May Like: Is The Disease Shingles Contagious
What Is The Outcome For Someone Who Has Shingles
Most people get shingles once, but its possible to get it again.
If you have a healthy immune system, the blisters tend to clear in 7 to 10 days. The rash tends to go away completely within 2 to 4 weeks. The pain may last longer, but usually stops in 1 or 2 months.
For some people, the pain will last longer than the rash. When it does, its called postherpetic neuralgia , which can come and go or be constant. PHN can last for months, years, or the rest of your life. Treatment can help reduce the amount of pain you feel.
Be sure to tell your doctor if you continue to have pain. Treatment can help you feel more comfortable.
For anyone who has a shingles rash, the right self-care can help ease your discomfort. Youll find out what dermatologists recommend at, Shingles: Self-care.
ReferencesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention . About shingles. Page last reviewed 10/17/2017. Last accessed 4/1/2019.
Dooling KL, Guo A, et al. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018 67:103-8.
Madkan V, Sra K, et al. Human herpes viruses. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008: 1204-8.
Straus SE, Oxman MN. Varicella and herpes zoster. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatricks Dermatology in General Medicine . McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1885-98.
How To Treat And Prevent Shingles
Shingles is treated using antiviral medications, such as:
To manage shingles pain, you can also use numbing creams like lidocaine, or place a cool, wet washcloth on your skin.
It’s important to get treatment as quickly as possible because, “people with shingles can develop long-term pain or itch after the shingles resolves if the virus does too much damage,” Kim says.
To stop yourself from spreading varicella-zoster to anyone else, try to cover up your rash when possible and avoid directly touching it.
The best way to prevent shingles is to get a shingles vaccine. The newest vaccine, called Shingrix, is 85% to 90% effective at preventing shingles in people who have already had chickenpox. If you have never had chickenpox, you will need to get the chickenpox vaccine instead.
You May Like: How Do Shingles Go Away
Physical Difference Between Architectural Shingles And Three Tab
Architectural shingles are constructed with a heavier base mat which multiple layers of material are adhered to. This gives the dimensional shingles a layered or three dimensional look. Whereas the standard three tab shingle contains a flat layer with no dimensional thickness to it. Typically architectural shingles weight almost 50% more than the standard 3 tab shingles.
Read Also: What Are The Complications Of Shingles
What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles Without A Rash
The symptoms of ZSH are similar to the symptoms of shingles, but without a rash. The symptoms are usually isolated to one side of the body and commonly occur on the face and neck, and in the eyes. Symptoms can also occur in the internal organs. Typical symptoms include:
Shingles isnt contagious. You cant give someone else shingles. If you have shingles and are in contact with someone who hasnt had chickenpox or wasnt vaccinated for chickenpox, you can give that person chickenpox. That person would have to come in direct contact with your shingles rash.
If you have shingles without a rash, you shouldnt be able to pass it to others. Still, its a good idea to avoid contact with people who havent had chickenpox as well as pregnant women until your other symptoms have cleared up.
You can only get shingles if youve had chickenpox in the past. Youre at an increased risk for shingles if you:
- are over age 50
Don’t Miss: How To Know If Its Shingles
Can Shingles Be Passed On To Others
You cant catch shingles from another person with shingles, but the virus responsible for chickenpox can be passed on by someone with shingles to a person who has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it. This can happen when a person comes into contact with the fluid from the blisters. To prevent passing the virus on, keep the rash covered with clothing or a dressing and always clean your hands after you touch the rash or change any dressing.
Also Check: How Long Does Shingles Pain Last
Symptoms Of Chicken Pox
What are symptoms of chicken pox and what does chicken pox look like? The rash from chicken pox is what separates it from most other diseases. The blisters look like dew drops scattered on skin. They are in a lot of different phases. Some are just coming on, others are more fully formed and others are crusted and drying up, Murase said.
The rash can cause 250 to 500 itchy blisters that start on the chest, back and face before spreading to the rest of the body, according to the CDC.
Chicken pox in adults is serious the older you are the more serious it can be, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology . Its also dangerous for babies, adolescents, pregnant women and immunocompromised people, the CDC says.
Read Also: Does Health Insurance Cover Shingles Vaccine
The Shingles Rash Usually Occurs On One Side Of The Body Or Face Most Commonly On The Trunk
Its easy to mistake a shingles rash for another health condition that affects the skin. The shingles virus typically causes a painful rash and blisters, which can resemble many other skin conditions psoriasis, eczema, and hives among them. However, there are a few signs that your rash is more likely to be shingles than something else.
To get shingles, you must have had chickenpox. Shingles, or herpes zoster, occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates after lying dormant in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 out of 3 people in the United States will get shingles in their lifetime. While your risk of getting shingles increases as you age, anyone can get it if they had chickenpox, notes the CDC.
About half of all shingles cases occur in adults age 60 or older, and the risk of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70, according to the National Institute on Aging.
How Long Does Shingles Last
Shingles blisters usually scab over in 7-10 days and disappear completely in two to four weeks. In most healthy people, the blisters leave no scars, and the pain and itching go away after a few weeks or months. But people with weakened immune systems may develop shingles blisters that do not heal in a timely manner.
Don’t Miss: How Do You Get Shingles In Your Eye
How Do You Prevent Shingles
You can lower your risk of shingles and its complications by getting the vaccine for shingles. The Food and Drug Administration approved the shingles vaccine Shingrix for people:
- ages 50 and older
- people 18 years and older whose immune systems are weakened or compromised by a medical condition
- people 18 years and older taking immune-suppressing medication
Shingrix is 97% effective at preventing shingles in people with healthy immune systems, ages 5069 years, and 91% effective for adults 70 and older. The vaccine also reduces the risk of severe shingles and complications of shingles in all adults.
You can reduce your risk of chickenpox and the subsequent development of shingles by avoiding exposure to a person with chickenpox and getting vaccines for both of these conditions, as your healthcare professional recommends.
What Are The Risk Factors For Shingles
In the United States, 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime, and there are about 1 million cases a year in the country. Older adults who had chickenpox but do not have the shingles vaccine can often have a higher risk of reactivating the varicella-zoster virus and getting shingles.
Other factors that increase your risk include:
- conditions that weaken the immune system, such as HIV, cancer, chemotherapy, or an organ transplant
- weakened or impaired immune system, which also increases the risk for having recurring episodes of shingles
The risk of shingles is usually 10 times greater in adults who are more than 60 years old than in children younger than 10. Much of the increase in shingles risk occurs at around 50 years old.
Recommended Reading: Does Shingles Shot Have Side Effects
Chickenpox Is Caused By The Same Virus
The same virus, varicella zoster virus, causes both chickenpox and shingles.
Chickenpox typically causes an itchy rash that spreads over the entire body, as opposed to just one side of the body or face like shingles. More than 99 percent of Americans born on or before 1980 have had chickenpox, per the CDC. If you dont know if you had chickenpox, check with your family doctor, who can review your records.
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.
Read Also: Can Shingles Cause Dry Eyes
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.
Stage : Rash Outbreak
The second stage of shingles is an eruption of the rash itself, typically 34 days after you first experience the tingling and burning sensation.
The rash typically appears as a band or strap. It includes fluid-filled blisters and lasts 24 weeks. The rash at this stage can be painful.
Some people experience a minor rash or skin irritation. For other people, the rash can cover a larger area. Flu-like symptoms may also occur at this stage.
You May Like: How Long After Having Shingles Should I Get The Vaccine
Shingles Or Something Else
Small blisters that appear only on the lips or around the mouth may be cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters. They’re not shingles, but are instead caused by the herpes simplex virus. Itchy blisters that appear after hiking, gardening, or spending time outdoors could be a reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac. If you aren’t sure what’s causing your rash, see your healthcare provider.
S Of The Shingles Rash
If you have a rash of blisters on your skin or a rash that looks like any shown below, see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis. If you have shingles, its important to get treatment, preferably within 2 to 3 days.
If youve had the rash for longer than 2 to 3 days, its still important to see your doctor.
A typical shingles rash
Doctors often refer to this rash as the shingles band because it looks like a band that appears on one area of your body, as shown here.
A rash on one side of the body
A key that you have shingles is that the rash only develops on one side of your body.
Close-up of a shingles rash
The shingles rash often causes a cluster of tiny blisters. You may notice that the skin beneath the blisters is red and inflamed, as shown here.
The rash will also feel painful.
Blistering shingles rash on a manâs chest
Although the rash can begin in one area, you may notice that a few scattered blisters develop in other areas, as shown here.
Shingles rash on the palm of a manâs hand
While shingles tends to develop on your body or face, it can appear anywhere on your skin.
We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Heres our process.
Herpes sores can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth, genitals, and eyes. Knowing what herpes looks like across the body can help people diagnose the condition.
Also Check: What Are The 1st Signs Of Shingles
What Problems Can Happen
Most cases of shingles heal on their own, with or without treatment, and wont lead to any other problems. In rare cases, shingles can lead to complications, including:
- Ongoing pain : Damaged nerve fibers in the skin send confused messages to the brain, leading to pain. Pain can go on for a long time after the shingles rash is gone. This is the most common shingles complication.
- Vision problems: Shingles near or in an eye can lead to vision loss.
- Skin infections: A shingles rash can become infected with bacteria, leading to impetigo or cellulitis.
- Nervous system problems: Shingles on the face can involve different nerves that connect to the brain. This can lead to nerve-related problems such as facial paralysis, hearing problems, and problems with balance. In very rare cases, shingles can lead to encephalitis .
Also Check: Does Rite Aid Give Shingles Shots