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What Happens If Shingles Go Untreated

Symptoms Of Shingles In The Eye

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When you have shingles in the eye, the blistering rash will form on your eyelids, forehead, and possibly on the tip or side of your nose. This rash might show up at the same time as the skin rash, or weeks after the skin blisters have gone away. Some people only have symptoms in their eye.

Along with the rash, you might have:

  • burning or throbbing pain in your eye
  • redness around and in the eye

You might also have swelling in parts of your eye, such as:

  • your retina, which is the light-sensitive layer in the back of your eye
  • your cornea, which is the clear layer in the front of your eye

If you have one or more of these symptoms, call your primary care doctor or an eye doctor for an appointment. The sooner you get treatment, the less likely it is that youll have long-term complications.

Diagnosis Of Shingles In The Eye

Your doctor should be able to diagnose shingles just by looking at the rash on your eyelids, scalp, and body. Your doctor might take a sample of fluid from the blisters and send it out to a lab to test for the varicella-zoster virus.

An eye doctor will examine:

  • help the rash fade more quickly

Starting the medicine within three days after your rash appears can help you avoid long-term shingles complications.

To reduce swelling in your eye, your doctor might also give you a steroid medicine in the form of a pill or eye drops. If you develop postherpetic neuralgia, pain medicine and antidepressants can help relieve the nerve pain.

Outlook For People With Shingles In The Eye

Your shingles rash should heal within one to three weeks. Symptoms around your face and eyes can sometimes take up to a few months to heal.

In the early stages of the disease, your doctor will check you every few days. After youve received treatment for the infection, youll probably need to see your eye doctor every 3 to 12 months to check for glaucoma, scarring, and other long-term problems that can affect your vision.

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What You Can Do

When you make the appointment, ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
  • Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and family medical history
  • All medications, vitamins or supplements you take, including the doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you’re given.

For shingles, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What’s likely causing my symptoms?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What’s the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach you’re suggesting?
  • I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there restrictions I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don’t hesitate to ask other questions.

Tingling Pain Or Numbness

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During the first stage of shingles, before anything appears on your skin, a particular area of your body may begin to feel different. When a shingles outbreak is starting, you may feel itching, burning, or pain,” Kim says. Often you will feel this on only one side of your body.

The initial signs of shingles may feel different for each person. In some cases, shingles can cause intense sensitivity, making it painful to even wear clothes over your skin, while in other cases, your skin may feel numb.

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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.

ImageGetty Images

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 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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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.

Stroke And Other Brain Ailments

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In addition to shingles’ telltale rash, neurological symptoms develop quickly and can include headaches, vomiting, fever, and confusion. This could be because varicella zoster virus sits on a nerve. “That nerve cell body has an arm that has contact with the skin, but it also has another arm that goes directly to the brain,” explains Dr. Mukerji. “When the virus goes to the brain, it can cause meningitis, encephalitis, or stroke.”

So, while shingles resulting in brain conditions is rare, it can increase your risk for stroke. Case in point: A 2016 review of epidemiological studies published in the Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases found that during the year after a shingles bout, the risk of stroke increased 59%, and this risk was highest among those under 40.

In addition, shingles can also cause swelling in the brain and seizures, both of which can lead to serious and permanent complications.

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Risks Associated With Shingles

Shingles is a common condition caused by the varicella-zoster virusthe same virus that causes chickenpox. For most healthy adults, shingles is not life-threatening, although it can be quite painful.

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.

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Pain Associated With Shingles

The most common complication related to shingles is pain. This is a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN. Individuals with this complication experience severe pain in the areas where the shingles rash developed.

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This pain may continue even after the rash has disappeared. Most patients with shingles find the pain subsides within a few weeks or months, but in other cases, the pain may last for years. In individuals over the age of 60, persistent pain is the most common symptom related to shingles.

Approximately one in six individuals over the age of 60 who develop shingles will experience severe pain. As individuals grow older, the chances they will develop long-term pain associated with shingles increases.

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What Happens If Shingles Meet

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Is The Condition Curable

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There is no cure for shingles, but attacks can be rendered less severe and their duration shortened with the use of prescription antiviral drugs.

Several antiviral medicinesacyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovirare available to treat shingles and shorten the length and severity of the illness. These medicines are most effective if you start taking them as soon as possible after the rash appears. If you think you have shingles, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment.

Pain medicine, either over-the-counter or a prescription from your doctor, may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths can also help relieve itching.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles

Usually, shingles develops on just one side of the body or face, and in a small area. The most common place for shingles to occur is in a band around one side of the waistline.

Most people with shingles have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Tingling, itching, or numbness of the skin
  • Chills, fever, headache, or upset stomach

For some people, the symptoms of shingles are mild. They might just have some itching. For others, shingles can cause intense pain that can be felt from the gentlest touch or breeze. Its important to talk with your doctor if you notice any shingles symptoms.

If you notice blisters on your face, see your doctor right away because this is an urgent problem. Blisters near or in the eye can cause lasting eye damage and blindness. Hearing loss, a brief paralysis of the face, or, very rarely, inflammation of the brain can also occur.

What Does It Mean To Let Shingles Run Its Course

This refers to the typical course a shingles rash takes, even with antiviral treatment:

  • A person may develop a tingling sensation or pain in a certain area on the skin, most commonly on the waistline. This may last for several days.
  • Next, a rash develops in the area. The skin turns red, with fluid-filled bumps . Its during this time that a shingles rash can spread the VZV to another person who hasnt had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
  • After 1 to 2 weeks, these fluid-filled bumps start to crust over. At this point, the rash can no longer spread to other people. It can then take 1 to 2 more weeks for the crusted areas to fully scab over and heal.
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    Seek Treatment Right Away

    Many people have the mistaken impression that, like poison ivy, shingles is a nuisance rash that fades on its own. But in fact a shingles rash should alert people, especially in middle or old age, to seek immediate medical help, says Dr. Oaklander.

    Rapid treatment with one of three antiviral drugs, acyclovir , valacyclovir , or famciclovir , can shorten a shingles attack and reduce the risk of serious damage, such as:

    • Long-term pain. Pain that lingers in the area of a healed shingles rash is called postherpetic neuralgia. This often-disabling pain can last several months to a year.
    • Prolonged itching. Many people are left with an itchy area from their shingles, which can be as disabling as chronic pain. It is most common on the head or neck.
    • Damage to vision and hearing. Pain and rash near an eye can cause permanent eye damage and requires an urgent ophthalmological exam. When the nerve to the ear is affected, it can permanently damage hearing or balance.
    • Strokes and heart attacks. A PLOS Medicinestudy that tracked about 67,000 people ages 65 and older who were newly diagnosed with shingles found that stroke risk more than doubled in the first week after the shingles diagnosis. The same study reported an increased risk for heart attacks in the three months after shingles, but the additional risk dissipated after six months.

    What Shingles Can Do To Mature Generations

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    Terms like shingles and herpes zoster describe a silent monster lurking quietly in the body of those who had chickenpox. It may not be deadly in everyone but does pose a major health risk to individuals over 50. Read on to find out what shingles can do to the mature generation.

    The shingles virus is the reactivation of the chickenpox virus known as the varicella-zoster virus. After having chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus will remain dormant in the body for the rest of the individuals life. However, that virus may become reactivated later on, causing shingles. Shingles shows up as a single stripe along the torso and possibly other parts of the body that is dotted with painful blisters, typically on individuals 50 and older.

    Unfortunately, for older generations, shingles can be even harder to bear. Here are a few complications many older folks face when dealing with shingles:

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    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.

    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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    Shingles: Not Just A Band Of Blisters

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    Shingles is a common condition caused by the chickenpox virus . Not everyone who’s had chickenpox will develop shingles. However, after years of lying dormant in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain, the virus can reactivate in some people. As it becomes active again, the virus causes pain, tingling and, eventually, a rash of blisters that doesn’t last long.

    The reason for shingles is unclear. But it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older.

    Is Shingles Dangerous For Elderly People

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    Studies show that your risks of getting shingles and incurring complications from the virus increase with age. Complications from shingles can be dangerous and cause long-term health problems, such as a is nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia . Consequently, shingles are especially serious for those who have a weakened immune system, making it harder to fight the infection.

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    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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