Can Shingles Come Back
Given that shingles results from the varicella zoster virus reactivating some amount of time after having chickenpox, you may be wondering if the virus can…re-reactivate after having shingles.
“Once shingles clears up, the virus simply goes back into hiding and, unfortunately, it can reactivate again in the future,” says Dr. Brown. “As far as the likelihood of shingles reoccurring, that’s still largely up for debate. One study found that the chance of getting shingles a second time is about 5%, but other studies show this number to be lower.”
One way to reduce your risk of getting shingles twice is the same preventive measure that helps prevent you from ever getting it in the first place: the shingles vaccine.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles
Shingles causes a painful, blistering rash on your skin. If you get shingles, you may notice the following:
Before the rash appears: For 1 to 2 days before the rash appears, you may have pain, burning, or tingling on an area of skin where the rash will develop. Some people say they felt an electrical sensation on their skin before getting the rash.
Rash appears: A painful, blistering rash appears. It usually appears on one side of your body, often on the torso however, it can appear anywhere on your skin. Some people get more blisters after the rash appears, so it can seem that the rash is spreading.
Rash starts to clear: As the rash clears, the blisters may crack open, bleed, and scab over. For most people, the rash will clear within 2 to 4 weeks.
Although the rash will clear on its own, treatment is important. Taking medication within 3 days of getting the shingles rash can:
Reduce your risk of developing other health problems, such as long-lasting nerve pain, pneumonia, or hearing loss
Shingles rash on the face
If you have a shingles rash on your face, immediately seeing a doctor for treatment could save your eyesight.
Should I Get A Vaccine
Doctors say most healthy people over 50 should get Shingrix, as well as anyone 19 or older who are immunocompromised. Itâs available at pharmacies as well as doctorsâ offices. Most people have been exposed to the chickenpox even if they didnât actually develop symptoms.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine unless:
- You are allergic to any part of the vaccine
- Had a blood test that proves you never had chicken pox
- Have shingles now
- Are breastfeeding or nursing.
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What Is Shingles What Does Shingles Look Like
Shingle is a disease characterized by a painful, blistering skin rash that affects one side of the body, typically the face or torso. This condition may also be referred to as herpes zoster, zoster, or zona. The word shingles comes from the Latin word cingulum, which means belt. There are approximately 1 million estimated new cases per year in the U.S., with almost one out of every three people developing shingles at some point in their lifetime. Though most people who develop shingles will only have a single episode, there are some who develop recurrent cases of shingles. Shingles are more common in older individuals and in those with weakened immune systems.
The characteristic rash of shingles typically appears after an initial period of burning, tingling, itching, or stinging in the affected area. After a few days, the rash then appears in a stripe or band-like pattern along a nerve path , affecting only one side of the body without crossing the midline. The rash erupts as clusters of small red patches that develop into blisters, which may appear similar to chickenpox. The blisters then break open and slowly begin to dry and eventually crust over.
What Shingles Symptoms Come Next
After about 1 to 5 days, a shingles rash will appear on one side of the body, often in a single characteristic band around one side of the torso or face.
The painful rash will then form itchy or burning blister-like sores filled with a clear fluid. The blisters will scab over in 7 to 10 days. Theyll gradually grow smaller before disappearing.
Shingles rash symptoms commonly last between 2 to 4 weeks.
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How Common Is Shingles
Shingles affects 1 out of every 3 people in the United States. More than 1 million cases of shingles are diagnosed every year. The risk of shingles increases as you get older, with about half the cases occurring in people over the age of 50. Shingles develops in about 10% of people who have had chickenpox at an earlier time in their life.
How Do You Get Shingles
Chickenpox is the root cause of shingles. Anyone whos had chickenpox can develop shingles. Its common knowledge that chickenpox is contagious, but is shingles contagious? Its possible to spread VZV through aerosolized secretions from chickenpox or shingles. When people breathe in those secretions, they can be infected with the active virus. People also transmit VZV through direct physical contact with the fluid in chickenpox or shingles blisters.
Those whove had chickenpox could develop shingles if exposed to blister liquid from shingles. Those who havent had chickenpox could get chickenpox, which can be severe for infected adults. Theres a risk of death for every person infected with chickenpox, but the mortality rate is higher for infected adults. Adults may also suffer other medical complications from chickenpox, such as stroke. Adults infected with chickenpox would be susceptible to developing shingles later if the virus was reactivated or exposed to VZV.
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Can You Get Shingles From The Covid
There have been a few reports of shingles happening in people who were vaccinated against COVID-19. The varicella-zoster virus was reactivated in these people.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If youve had chickenpox, youre at risk of developing shingles later in life. Shingles causes a rash that is contagious and painful. The disease can have serious complications. The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to get the shingles vaccine. The vaccines are safe and effective.
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.
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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.
Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
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Tips And Reminders For Those With Shingles
Focus on pain management to alleviate symptoms while you have shingles. Avoid tight clothing that will rub against your blisters. Wash regularly and keep the blisters clean to avoid infection.
Remember, youre infectious for up to 10 days after getting shingles. Avoid close contact with anyone who hasnt had chickenpox during this time. You may benefit from services from an infectious diseases treatment team if you have a severe case.
Shingles can be severe, particularly for older adults. Its a transmittable disease, making it crucial for those infected to avoid contact with others to reduce the risk of infection. Anyone whos had chickenpox has a risk of developing shingles unless they get vaccinated. Those with severe symptoms should contact experienced infectious disease service providersto discuss treatment options.
Tips For Coping With Shingles
If you have shingles, here are some tips that might help you feel better:
- Wear loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing.
- Take an oatmeal bath or use calamine lotion to soothe your skin.
- Apply a cool washcloth to your blisters to ease the pain and help dry the blisters.
- Keep the area clean and try not to scratch the blisters so they dont become infected or leave a scar.
- Do things that take your mind off your pain. For example, watch TV, read, talk with friends, listen to relaxing music, or work on a hobby such as crafts or gardening.
- Get plenty of rest and eat well-balanced meals.
- Try simple exercises like stretching or walking. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
- Avoid stress. It can make the pain worse.
Also, you can limit spreading the virus to other people by:
- Staying away from anyone who has not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, or who might have a weakened immune system
- Keeping the rash covered
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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.
What Are The Side Effects
Shingrix can make the area where you get the shot swell or feel sore. Other effects include:
- Many people who get the vaccine have muscle aches, headaches, or feel tired.
- About 1 in 4 people have a fever or an upset stomach.
Younger people are more likely to have these side effects, and they typically last 2 or 3 days.
Itâs also possible to have an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine. If you have problems breathing, feel your face or throat swelling, or feel weak or dizzy after the shot, call 911 and get medical help right away.
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Will Shingles Go Away On Its Own
Shingles isnt life-threatening, but it can be incredibly painful and, in some cases, complications can arise. While this rash typically goes away its own, prompt treatment can reduce your pain and help shingles go away faster.
Several antivirals can be used to treat shingles. These drugs can help you heal more quickly and reduce your pain, but they are most effective when started within 72 hours of your rash appearing. This means its important to see your doctor as soon as you suspect shingles, says Dr. Brown. When it comes to the pain associated with shingles, most people are able to manage it using over-the-counter pain relievers. But, pain can be severe for some people. In these cases, your doctor can prescribe stronger pain medications.
Beyond treating your immediate pain and rash, seeing your doctor is also important since serious complications can occur as a result of shingles, such as:
- Postherpetic neuralgia pain that lasts for months to years after the rash clears, with this pain being debilitating in some cases
- Skin infection occurs if the open sores of your rash become infected with bacteria, which can require antibiotics and delay healing
- Vision problems while rare, if your rash develops near your eye, the associated inflammation can damage your retina and, in some cases, result in vision loss
Shingles Treatment: Home Remedies
Bathing is generally allowed, and the affected area can be washed with soap and water. Cool compresses and anti-itching lotions such as calamine lotion may also provide relief from symptoms. An aluminum acetate solution can be used to help dry up the blisters and oozing. Application of petroleum jelly can also aid in healing. Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine and pain medicines can also help provide relief.
Wearing loose clothing can help avoid extra pain from clothing rubbing against the rash. Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with others who have not had chickenpox, are ill, or who have a weakened immune system to avoid spread of the virus. People who do not have immunity to the virus may catch varicella by having direct contact with the lesions. In this way zoster is similar to cold sores, which are caused by a virus in the same family as varicella.
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Where Does Shingles Come From
When you have chickenpox as a child, your body fights off the varicella-zoster virus and the physical signs of chickenpox fade away, but the virus always remains in your body. In adulthood, sometimes the virus becomes active again. This time, the varicella-zoster virus makes its second appearance in the form of shingles.
What Are The Risks Associated With Shingles
Some people experience pain around the rash site for a month or morepain that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities.
Scratching the rash can also cause a secondary infection if harmful bacteria get into the sores.
Shingles on the face can involve the eyes, which is serious because it can cause scarring and blindness.
The occurrence and severity of shingles and its complications increase with age.
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Summary: What Does Shingles Look Like
Now that youve seen the shingles pictures above, review the key points about what to expect from the shingles rash.
- Shingles is the reactivation of chickenpox.
- The first shingles symptom is usually pain followed a few days later by a red rash across the torso.
- The red rash eventually develops fluid-filled blisters. While you have blisters, youre contagious.
- The blisters will pop and crust over.
- This shingles rash can be spread to any part of the body.
- You should seek immediate medical attention if you develop shingles on your eyes, forehead, face, or ears.
How Long Does Shingles Last
Shingles may last approximately three weeks in the best-case scenario. In these cases, the rash appears one day after the itching starts, and the blisters scab over seven days later.
Shingles may also affect infected persons for up to four weeks. In these cases, it takes five full days for the rash to appear after developing itchy skin. The blisters remain fluid-filled and contagious for ten days before scabs appear and are followed by approximately two weeks of recovery before the scabs disappear.
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Hives Can Cause Itchy Red Bumps
Hives are red or skin-colored bumps that can cause mild to severe itching, according to the ACAAI. They typically appear suddenly and disappear quickly. Pressing the middle of a red bump will make it turn white, which is known as blanching. Hives can be caused by a number of triggers, including allergies, cold or hot weather, and infections.
Is Shingles Herpes Zoster Contagious
Shingles cannot be transmitted from someone who has shingles. Rather, it can only occur when a person who has already been infected with the herpes zoster virus experiences a change in their immune systems ability to fight off the virus. However, a person with an active shingles infection can transmit chickenpox to someone that has not had the virus. The virus can be transferred until the blisters crust over, which takes about a week.
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What Causes Eye Shingles
Before we take a closer look at shingles affecting the eye , lets talk about what causes shingles in the first place: the chickenpox virus.
As an adult, you may have a hazy memory of spending a week in bed, your itchy body dotted in pink calamine lotion as you binged on daytime TV and ate popsicles by the box.
The blisters may be long gone, but the chickenpox virus still lies dormant in your body.
About one in three U.S. adults will get shingles when the varicella-zoster virus that sparked their childhood chickenpox reactivates in the body, according to Mayo Clinic.
Shingles typically starts out as a band of tenderness or tingling on your skin and then turns into a painful rash.
People will tell you, It was the worst pain I ever had, Rapuano says.
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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.
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