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.
Who Should Get The Shingles Vaccine
At this time, Shingrix is recommended for healthy adults who are 50 years of age or older. Individuals should receive the vaccine whether or not they recall having had chickenpox, as data shows that more than 99% of Americans over 40 years of age have had chickenpox, even if they do not remember having had it. Shingrix is also recommended for individuals who have already received the Zostavax vaccine, as Shingrix has demonstrated superior efficacy and longer-lasting protection.
Shingrix is not indicated for the prevention of primary varicella infection. The CDC recommends the varicella vaccine for healthy people who do not have evidence of immunity to varicella, including children, adolescents, and adults.
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When Should I See My Doctor
See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. Starting treatment with antiviral medicines within 3 days of the rash appearing should reduce the severity of symptoms and the risk of further complications, including post-herpetic neuralgia.
See your doctor straight away if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following:
- symptoms that affect your eye area
- a temperature of 38°C or higher
You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medicine that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.
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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.
Complications Of Shingles: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome & Bacterial Skin Infection
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome: If shingles affect the nerves of the face, this uncommon complication can lead to facial muscle paralysis, and the characteristic rash can affect the ear and the ear canal, and rarely the mouth. Symptoms may include ear pain, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and dizziness. Though most people recover fully with treatment, some individuals may have permanent facial weakness and/or hearing loss.
- Bacterial skin infection: A secondary bacterial infection of the skin blisters can sometimes develop, leading to cellulitis or impetigo. These skin infections may be characterized by increasing redness, tenderness, and warmth in and around the area of the rash. Most of these bacterial skin infections are caused by either Staphylococcus aureus or group A Streptococcus bacteria. These bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.
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When To Seek Medical Advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
You should also see your GP if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and you think you have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles and haven’t had chickenpox before.
How To Avoid Spreading Shingles
The varicella-zoster virus is typically less likely to be transmitted with shingles than with chickenpox. However, the varicella-zoster virus can be passed on from the time that your symptoms start until your rash and blisters have crusted dry.
If you have shingles and are otherwise healthy, you can still go out in public or to work. But be sure to follow these tips:
- Keep the shingles rash clean and covered. This can help prevent other people from coming into contact with your blisters.
- Wash your hands often. Also, try not to touch the blisters.
- Avoid being around pregnant people. The varicella-zoster virus can cause serious health risks for both pregnant people and their babies. Risks include pneumonia and permanent damage to the unborn child. If you find you have shingles after spending time with someone whos pregnant, let them know at once so they can ask their OB-GYN for advice. Be especially careful to avoid pregnant people who havent had chickenpox or the vaccine for it.
- Avoid other at-risk people. Stay away from premature babies, infants with low birth weights, and children who havent yet had chickenpox or its vaccine. Also, avoid people with weakened immune systems. These include people living with HIV, organ transplant recipients, and people taking immunosuppressant medications or having chemotherapy.
Doctors recommend the chickenpox vaccine for children. Preventing chickenpox will also prevent shingles.
You can get the vaccine
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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 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 Can Be Done For Recurrent Shingles
Though most people will experience only one episode of shingles during their lifetime, recurrence can occur in certain individuals. In order to help prevent recurrent episodes of shingles, individuals with no contraindications can receive the zoster vaccine , which can prevent recurrent episodes of shingles. Otherwise, people who do experience a recurrent case of shingles should see their doctor as soon as the rash appears to promptly receive antiviral medication.
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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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
If you have symptoms of shingles, especially if they involve your face, see your doctor or ophthalmologist right away.
Doctors can usually diagnose a shingles rash by performing a physical exam. Your doctor can also take a scraping of your skin rash and send it to a lab for examination under a microscope.
Its particularly important to seek treatment if you have a compromised immune system. Early treatment can help cut down on your chances for serious complications.
Shingles will have to run its course, but quite a few treatment options are available. These include:
- antiviral drugs
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
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Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body
The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of your body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area. It doesnt spread over your whole body. Your torso is a common area, as is your face.
The First Symptoms Of Shingles
Early symptoms of shingles can appear several days before the more obvious symptoms. However, some people will not have early symptoms before a rash appears.
The most common early symptoms occur on one part of the body or face. This often happens in the abdominal area.
These symptoms many include:
The pain can worsen as shingles develops. The pain can be sharp, stabbing, and intense.
It may also cause hypersensitivity, or an excessive reaction to touch.
There are also other early symptoms of shingles.
Although not every person with shingles will experience them, early symptoms include:
- general feeling of being unwell
Your doctor can often diagnose shingles based on these symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication to speed up recovery.
Medication also reduces the chance of complications, so seeking early intervention is important.
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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.
Complication: Ramsay Hunt Syndrome
Anyone with shingles symptoms on or around the ears should seek treatment immediately. This can lead to Ramsay Hunt syndrome if left untreated. Symptoms of this illness include dizziness, earaches, hearing loss, and ringing in your ear.
Some people may even experience a loss of ability to move parts of your face. The good news is this complication is rare, as long as people receive early treatment for their shingles.
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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 Other Problems Can Shingles Cause
Shingles can cause complications:
- Postherpetic neuralgia is most common complication of shingles. It causes severe pain in the areas where you had the shingles rash. It usually gets better in a few weeks or months. But some people can have pain from PHN for many years, and it can interfere with daily life.
- Vision loss can happen if shingles affects your eye. It may be temporary or permanent.
- Hearing or balance problems are possible if you have shingles within or near your ear. You may also have weakness of the muscles on that side of your face. These problems can be temporary or permanent.
Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, brain inflammation , or death.
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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.
How Is Shingles Spread
A person must have already had chickenpox in the past to develop shingles. A person cannot get shingles from a person that has shingles. However, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox or had the chickenpox vaccine. The person exposed to the virus would develop chickenpox, not shingles. A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. The blister fluid is filled with virus particles. The virus is spread through direct contact with the rash or through breathing in virus particles that get mixed in the air. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. A person is not infectious before blisters appear or if pain persists after the rash is gone .
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