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.
How Long Does A Shingles Outbreak Last
It can take three to five weeks from the time you begin to feel symptoms until the rash totally disappears.
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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Does Medicare Pay For Shingles Vaccines
Some Medicare Part D prescription drug plans and Medicare Advantage plans that include drug coverage may cover the shingles vaccine.
Original Medicare Parts A and B pay for inpatient and outpatient services, respectively, and neither typically pays for shingles vaccines.
Part D drug plans and Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans are offered to eligible Medicare beneficiaries and are sold by private insurance companies. Plans can vary by a wide margin on what they cover and how much they pay for drug-related services, and only a plan representative can give a definitive answer to whether a specific plan pays for SHINGRIX.
Most Part D and MA-PD plans do help cover the singles vaccine, however. The costs a beneficiary may face such as coinsurance, deductibles and copays for the vaccine may vary from plan to plan.
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Is That Rash By My Eye Really Shingles
Shingles tends to show up most frequently on the torso, just because of the laws of probability, notes Joseph Safdieh, MD, a professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. In that area of your body, there are 24 nerves that can host the virus, compared with the 10 in your lower back.
Often, its not what the rash looks like, but what it feels like before and after it shows up, that signals the condition. Up to several days before the shingles rash appears, pain, itching, or tingling often occurs in the area where it will develop.
In the days before the rash appears, a variety of other flu-like symptoms of shingles can occur. You may experience:
You may even experience the pain but not the rash. Because the pain of shingles originates in the nerves, it may have a different quality than any other pain you have experienced before.
Neuropathic pain is burning, says Dr. Safdieh. Its both numb and painful at the same time, and can be provoked by touching the skin. Your skin may be so sensitive that even sunlight can bring on a stabbing sensation.
Even if you arent sure you have shingles, you should still see a doctor right away, because immediate treatment can prevent complications like long-term nerve pain.
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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.
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
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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.
What Should I Expect Will Happen To Me If I Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and reduce the duration of your symptoms.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you never had shingles or had a bout of them in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
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When To See A Doctor
A person should see a doctor if they are experiencing any early symptoms of shingles, especially if they have a history of shingles or are at a higher risk of developing an acute outbreak of the virus due to any of the risk factors above.
A person undergoing treatment for shingles should follow up with a doctor if:
- the symptoms get significantly worse after treatment
- the symptoms do not go away within a few weeks
- new or different symptoms appear in addition to the rash
- there are signs of secondary infection, such as high fever, an open wound, or red streaks coming out of a shingles lesion
People should also speak to a doctor if they have lasting nerve pain in the affected region after the rash of shingles disappears. This complication, called postherpetic neuralgia, affects
In many cases , a doctor will prescribe an antiviral medication, such as famciclovir, valacyclovir, or acyclovir. Pain-relieving medicine can also help ease symptoms. Calamine lotion, colloidal oatmeal compresses and baths, and cold compresses may ease the itching of shingles.
It is important to refrain from scratching the affected area as this can irritate the blisters and increase the risk of infection.
Some people develop a superimposed bacterial skin infection over their shingles lesions. This infection can be very painful, and it may spread if a person does not receive treatment. Individuals who develop this infection in addition to shingles may require antibiotic treatment or even hospitalization.
Antiviral Medicines For Shingles
Antiviral medicines used to treat shingles include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. An antiviral medicine is not a cure for shingles, it does not kill the virus but works by stopping the virus from multiplying. So, it may limit the severity of symptoms of the shingles episode.
An antiviral medicine is most useful when started in the early stages of shingles . However, in some cases your doctor may still advise you have an antiviral medicine even if the rash is more than 72 hours old – particularly in elderly people with severe shingles, or if shingles affects an eye.
Antiviral medicines are not advised routinely for everybody with shingles. As a general rule, the following groups of people who develop shingles will normally be advised to take an antiviral medicine:
- If you are over the age of 50. The older you are, the more risk there is of severe shingles or complications developing and the more likely you are to benefit from treatment.
- If you are of any age and have any of the following:
- Shingles that affects the eye or ear.
- A poorly functioning immune system .
- Shingles that affects any parts of the body apart from the trunk .
- Moderate or severe pain.
If prescribed, a course of an antiviral medicine normally lasts seven days.
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What Are The Complications Of Shingles
The most common and lasting complication of shingles is nerve pain, whats called postherpetic neuralgia , which can last for months or even years, long after the rash has cleared up. According to the CDC, between 10% and 18% of people whove had shingles will develop PHN.
PHN is a stabbing or throbbing pain or weakness where the shingles rash had been. The risk increases with age and the pain lasts longer and is more severe than in younger people.8
In rare cases, shingles can develop into pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness and brain inflammation.9 Only 1% to 4% of people with shingles are hospitalized for complications, though these are typically older adults and people whose immune systems are weak or suppressed, and fewer than 100 people die from shingles each year.10
What If I Have Shingles And A Poor Immune System
If you have a poor immune system and develop shingles then see your doctor straightaway. You will normally be given antiviral medication whatever your age and will be monitored for complications. People with a poor immune system include:
- People taking high-dose steroids. per day for more than one week in the previous three months. Or, children who have taken steroids within the previous three months, equivalent to prednisolone 2 mg/kg per day for at least one week, or 1 mg/kg per day for one month.)
- People on lower doses of steroids in combination with other immunosuppressant medicines.
- People taking anti-arthritis medications which can affect the bone marrow.
- People being treated with chemotherapy or generalised radiotherapy, or who have had these treatments within the previous six months.
- People who have had an organ transplant and are on immunosuppressive treatment.
- People who have had a bone marrow transplant and who are still immunosuppressed.
- People with an impaired immune system.
- People who are immunosuppressed with HIV infection.
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Does Medicare Cover Shingrix Or Zostavax
Many Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage for Shingrix and/or Zostavax.
- Medicare Part D plans provide coverage exclusively for prescription drugs.
- Medicare Advantage plans provide coverage for all Medicare Part A and Part B benefits, and most Medicare Advantage plans also cover prescription drugs. Some plans also offer dental, vision and hearing benefits, along with a range of other benefits that Original Medicare doesnt cover.
Both Medicare Advantage plans and Part D plans are sold by private insurance companies.
Check If You Have Shingles
The first signs of shingles can be:
- a tingling or painful feeling in an area of skin
- a headache or feeling generally unwell
A rash will appear a few days later.
Usually you get the shingles rash on your chest and tummy, but it can appear anywhere on your body including on your face, eyes and genitals.
The rash appears as blotches on your skin, on 1 side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.
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Can Shingles Be Prevented
There are 2 vaccines available to reduce the likelihood of developing shingles, Zostavax and Shingrix. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60 and is given free of charge in Australia to people aged 70 to 79.
Vaccination will not guarantee that you will not get shingles, but it will reduce your chance of developing the condition. The vaccine used to protect against shingles is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
Shingles On Your Face
Shingles usually occurs on one side of your back or chest, but you can also get a rash on one side of your face.
If the rash is close to or in your ear, it can cause an infection that could lead to:
- loss of hearing
- issues with your balance
- weakness in your facial muscles
Shingles inside your mouth can be very painful. It may be difficult to eat and may affect your sense of taste.
A shingles rash on your scalp can cause sensitivity when you comb or brush your hair. Without treatment, shingles on the scalp can lead to permanent bald patches.
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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.
The Link Between Crohns Disease And Shingles
If you’ve never had chicken pox, as a child or as an adult, and you’re exposed to the virus let’s say you touch someone at the contagious, blister stage of shingles transmission could occur and you’d get chicken pox.
If you haven’t had chicken pox, you can’t get shingles. But someone who has never had chicken pox or been vaccinated for it can contract chicken pox through close contact with someone who has shingles.
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Avoid Intense Or Irritating Movement
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, shingles rashes most often appear on the trunk of the body, which includes your:
Shingles rashes can also occur on the:
With that in mind, its best to avoid activities that require you to lay on these areas, like exercising on the floor or a workout bench. For instance, if youre doing gentle yoga, skip any poses that have you lying in the prone or supine position, where your belly or back are touching the floor, respectively.
Additionally, intense cardiovascular exercise like running or cycling may irritate a shingles rash, especially in the early stages.
As you heal, consider switching to lower-intensity workouts like walking until the blisters dry up and crust over. According to the National Institute on Aging , this generally takes around 7 to 10 days after a rash appears.
If possible, hold off on high intensity exercise until the scabs are completely cleared up, which may take 2 to 5 weeks.
Can You Do Regular Activities With Shingles
Whether or not you can continue with your regular activities while dealing with an active shingles infection depends on how you feel and whether youre still contagious.
Some people experience minor symptoms, while others have severe pain, itching, burning, and widespread, fluid-filled blisters for several weeks.
If your rash is oozing, you can spread shingles to other people. If the rash hasnt scabbed over yet, and its in an area that cant be covered, consider:
- staying home from work, school, or other daily activities where you interact with others
- avoiding contact sports and swimming
- not sharing towels, blankets, or clothes without washing them first
Additionally, shingles can cause flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, and upset stomach, which can derail your regular daily activities.
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What Triggers Shingles Flare
Most people who get shingles will have a one and done type of experience. In other words, theyll get it and likely never have it again. That said, there are some people who get shingles more than once.
Heres how it happens: the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, lies dormant in nerve cells after you recover from chickenpox or shingles.
For the most part, the virus stays inactive after your shingles symptoms subside and youve healed. But certain risk factors can trigger flare-ups and cause the virus to reactivate. Experts call this recurrent shingles.
A 2021 review looked at the incidences of first and recurrent shingles episodes and found that the average time between infections was 2 years for people ages 45 to 54 and 3 years for those ages 55 and older.
In addition, of the participants who experienced a flare-up, the incidence was higher in those who were immunosuppressed compared with people with healthy immune systems.
In other words, if you have a compromised or weakened immune system, you have a greater chance of getting shingles again. This can happen if you:
- are undergoing chemotherapy