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.
Donât Miss: How Much Does A Shingles Shot Cost At Cvs
How Does It Occur
If you have had chickenpox, you are at risk for later developing shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the chickenpox virus stays in your body. It moves to the roots of your nerve cells and becomes inactive . Later, if the virus becomes active again, shingles is the name given to the symptoms it causes.
What exactly causes the virus to become active is not known. A weakened immune system seems to allow reactivation of the virus. This may occur with normal aging, immune-suppressing medicines, or another illness, or after major surgery. It can also happen as a complication of cancer or AIDS or treatment of these illnesses. Chronic use of steroid drugs may trigger shingles. The virus may also become active again after the skin is injured or sunburned. Emotional stress seems to be a common trigger as well.
Tingling Pain Or Numbness
During the first stage of shingles, before anything appears on your skin, a particular area of your body may begin to feel different. âWhen a shingles outbreak is starting, you may feel itching, burning, or pain,â 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.
How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Shingles
Shingles can often be diagnosed by your doctor based upon the distinctive appearance and distribution of the characteristic shingles rash. A painful, blistering rash that is localized to defined dermatomes is a sign highly suggestive of shingles. Blood work or other testing is usually not necessary. Diagnosing shingles before the appearance of the rash or in cases of zoster sine herpete can be challenging. In cases where the diagnosis is unclear, laboratory tests are available to help confirm the diagnosis. Depending on the clinical situation, testing can be done using either blood work or by specialized testing of skin lesion samples.
What Does A Shingles Rash Look Like At First
If the rash involves the ear, it can lead to hearing loss, imbalance, and weakness of the facial muscles. Shingles rash on the scalp causes pain while combing or brushing and bald patches. Shingles can occur in the mouth and are usually very painful, causing pain while eating and change in taste.
- Shingles of the eye and forehead
Rash and blisters appear around the eye, over the eyelids and one side of the forehead, extending to the tip of the nose. Patients present with burning or throbbing in the eye, with watering of the eyes, swelling, and blurred vision.
Pain may be present after the rash disappears due to nerve damage but eventually improves. Without treatment, it can lead to corneal damage and vision loss.
- Shingles on the waist and back
Rash and blisters appear on one side of the waist and back in a stripe pattern, extending up to the lower back.
- Shingles on the buttocks
Shingles rash and blisters appear on the buttocks, usually on one side.
You May Like: Who Can Get Shingles Virus
Complications Of Shingles: Eye Problems Encephalitis And Disseminated Herpes Zoster
- Eye involvement: Shingles can sometimes affect the eye, a condition termed herpes zoster ophthalmicus. In certain cases, it can lead to blindness. Individuals with a rash involving the eye, forehead, or nose should have a careful eye evaluation performed by a doctor, as prompt medical treatment may be necessary.
- Encephalitis: Rarely, individuals with shingles may develop inflammation of the brain . This condition can be life-threatening if severe, especially in people with an impaired immune system.
- Disseminated herpes zoster: This serious and potentially life-threatening condition occurs most commonly in people with an impaired immune system. It is rare in otherwise healthy individuals. With disseminated herpes zoster, the varicella-zoster virus becomes more widespread. In addition to causing a more widespread rash, the virus can also spread to other organs of the body, including the brain, lungs, and liver.
When To See A Doctor
Getting treatment shortly after the onset of symptoms can help decrease the duration and severity of infection.
If the rash continues spreading to other parts of the body or other symptoms occur, such as high fever, it is best to consult with a doctor.
Additionally, those who develop a rash near the eye should seek immediate medical attention, as this can be a sign of HZO. The condition can cause scarring, vision loss, and permanent eye damage if left untreated.
causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the sensory ganglia of their cranial nerve or the dorsal root ganglia within the peripheral nervous system.
VZV belongs to a group of viruses called herpes viruses. This is why shingles also has the name herpes zoster.
All herpes viruses can hide in the nervous system, where they can remain indefinitely in a latent state.
Under the right conditions, the herpes zoster virus can reactivate, similarly to waking up from hibernation, and travel down nerve fibers to cause a new active infection.
What triggers this is not usually clear, but it may happen when something weakens the immune system, prompting the virus to reactivate.
If this happens, and the person has not received a vaccination against chickenpox, they would develop chickenpox first, not shingles.
Read Also: How Does One Get Shingles Virus
If Ive Been Vaccinated For Chickenpox Can I Still Develop Shingles Later In Life
Unfortunately, yes, despite being vaccinated for chickenpox, you can still get shingles. No vaccine is 100% protective and the effects of vaccines lessen with time. However, people who get the chickenpox vaccine are significantly less likely to develop shingles later in life compared with people who never received the chickenpox vaccine. One recent 12-year study found that the number of shingles cases was 72% lower in children who had received the chickenpox vaccine compared with those who did not.
Recommended Reading: Does Cvs Do Shingles Shots
How Can I Take Care Of Myself
- Take a pain-relief medicine such as acetaminophen. Take other medicine as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Put cool, moist washcloths on the rash.
- Rest in bed during the early stages if you have fever and other symptoms.
- Try not to let clothing or bed linens rub against the rash and irritate it.
- You develop worsening pain or fever.
- You develop a severe headache, stiff neck, hearing loss, or changes in your ability to think.
- The blisters show signs of bacterial infection, such as increasing pain or redness, or milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.
- The blisters are close to the eyes or you have pain in your eyes or trouble seeing.
- You have trouble walking.
You May Like: How Do You Get Shingles In Your Eye
Is Stress A Risk Factor For Shingles
You may have heard that someone got shingles because they were stressed, perhaps after the death of a relative, soon after a divorce, or at the end of a difficult semester at school.
Clinical Infectious Diseases
Theres some controversy about the matter, says Safdieh. We know for a fact that stress can have an impact on the function of the immune system. If theres stress, immunity is depressed, and I certainly see patients who tell me they were having a lot of stress when they got shingles. But, he adds, there are many people who are stressed and dont get shingles, and many people who get them while theyre on vacation.
If there is a link between stress and shingles, its probably not that the stress itself is putting a strain on the immune system it may be that stress creates conditions that lower immunity. Keep in mind, says Safdieh, that when youre stressed, you dont sleep and you dont eat, and all these factors can play a role.
How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated
Treatments include lotions or creams and/or other medications not specifically used for pain, such as antidepressants or drugs for epilepsy. Regular pain relievers are not usually effective for this type of pain.
If your pain doesnt lessen, you might try therapies like nerve blocks or steroid injections near the area where the nerves exit the spine. Your provider might suggest an implantable nerve stimulator device for severe, ongoing pain that hasnt responded to other treatments.
Also Check: Can You Shingle Over Existing Shingles
Is Shingles Prevention Possible Is There A Shingles Vaccine
Prevention of shingles in people who have contracted chickenpox is difficult, since the factors that trigger reactivation are not yet defined. However, if a person is never infected with the virus, shingles will not develop. Furthermore, there are at least two methods that are currently used to reduce the incidence of shingles.
First, the VZV vaccine, otherwise known as the chickenpox vaccine, may decrease the incidence of shingles by enhancing the immune system’s ability to fight off VZV or keep this virus inactive. This vaccine is usually administered to children, but the immunity may decline in about 15-20 years. The single-dose vaccine dose is given to babies 12-18 months of age. Most vaccine side effects, if they occur, are mild and range from a rash, skin redness, and swelling to small chickenpox lesions, usually at the injection site. Boosters of this vaccine for use in adults are now being investigated and may help prevent shingles in the future.
Shingrix is the vaccine the CDC currently recommends as the preferred shingles vaccine. Two doses about 2-6 months apart are more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and PHN, and it is recommended for use in people 50 and over. Side effects of Shingrix may occur and last about 2-3 days and may include redness and swelling at the inoculation site. Some individuals may experience muscle pain, headache, shivering, fever, stomach pain, and nausea.
What Are The Complications Of Shingles
Symptoms of shingles usually dont last longer than 3 to 5 weeks. However, complications can happen. The main complications that can result from shingles include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia . The most common complication of shingles is called postherpetic neuralgia . This continuous, chronic pain lasts even after the skin lesions have healed. The pain may be severe in the area where the blisters were present. The affected skin may be very sensitive to heat and cold. If you had severe pain during the active rash or have impaired senses, you are at increased risk for PHN. The elderly are also at greater risk. Early treatment of shingles may prevent PHN. Pain relievers and steroid treatment may be used to treat the pain and inflammation. Other treatments include antiviral drugs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and topical agents.
- Bacterial infection. A bacterial infection of the skin where the rash happens is another complication. Rarely, infections can lead to more problems, such as tissue death and scarring. When an infection happens near or on the eyes, a corneal infection can happen. This can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
Also Check: When Do Shingles Go Away
If You Get The Shingles Vaccine Does This Mean Youre 100% Protected From Getting Shingles
No. Just like most vaccines, getting vaccinated with a shingles vaccine doesnt provide 100% protection from disease. However, getting the shingles vaccine reduces your risk of developing shingles.
Even if you do develop shingles, youll be more likely to have a mild case. Also, youll be much less likely to develop postherpetic neuralgia, a painful condition that can follow a shingles outbreak.
Is It Possible To Prevent Shingles With A Vaccine
In October 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix, a non-live vaccine to prevent shingles. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices subsequently endorsed Shingrix as the preferred vaccine for the prevention of herpes zoster and its related complications in healthy adults 50 years of age and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults who previously received the current shingles vaccineZostavax, which was approved by the FDA in 2006. Shingrix, a two-dose vaccine, was found to prevent shingles in more than 90% of patients who received it in clinical trials. By preventing shingles, Shingrix also decreases the incidence of postherpetic neuralgia. Not only does Shingrix provide superior efficacy across all age groups, but it is also felt to confer longer-lasting immunity than Zostavax, which has experienced temporary vaccine shortages due to supply issues. Shingrix is expected to be widely available to U.S. consumers in early 2018. During clinical trials, the most common side effects associated with Shingrix included pain, swelling, and redness at the site of injection, headache, muscle aches, fever, chills, and upset stomach.
Recommended Reading: What Can You Put On Shingles Rash
Treatment Of Herpes Zoster
The treatment of herpes zoster has three major objectives: treatment of the acute viral infection, treatment of the acute pain associated with herpes zoster and prevention of postherpetic neuralgia. Antiviral agents, oral corticosteroids and adjunctive individualized pain-management modalities are used to achieve these objectives.
Can You Still Develop Shingles If Youve Been Vaccinated For Chickenpox
Yes. Despite being vaccinated for chickenpox, you can still get shingles. No vaccine is 100% protective, and the effectiveness of vaccines lessens with time. However, people who get the chickenpox vaccine are significantly less likely to develop shingles later in life compared with people who never received the chickenpox vaccine. One recent 12-year study found that the number of shingles cases was 72% lower in children who had received the chickenpox vaccine compared with those who didnt.
You May Like: Can You Have Shingles More Than Once
How Is Shingles Treated
Specific treatment for shingles will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- How long the shingles have been present
- Extent of the condition
- Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the condition
- Your opinion or preference
There is no cure for shingles. It simply has to run its course. Treatment focuses on pain relief. Painkillers may help relieve some of the pain. Antiviral drugs may help lessen some of the symptoms and reduce nerve damage. Other treatments may include:
- Creams or lotions to help relieve itching
- Cool compresses applied to affected skin areas
- Antiviral medicines
Do I Need To Stay Away From Children Pregnant Women People With Cancer Or Anyone With A Weak Immune System After I Get The Zostavax Vaccine
According to the CDC, it is safe to be around babies and young children, pregnant women or anyone with a weakened immune system after you get the Zostavax vaccine. Even though the Zostavax vaccine contains a weakened live varicella zoster virus, the CDC says there is no documented case of a person getting chickenpox from someone who has received the Zostavax vaccine.
You May Like: Where Do Shingles Appear On Your Body
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.