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.
How Is Herpes Zoster Diagnosed
Doctors diagnose shingles through a physical clinical exam. They may take a skin sample to test further if the causative factors remain unknown. However, if you have another type of herpes virus, the test will read positive.
Shingles on the face can lead to various eye compilations, including glaucoma and blindness. That makes it important to seek medical intervention from an ophthalmologist if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles Rash
The Stages Before and After Rash Development
The most well-known symptom of shingles is a severe skin rash. However, before any signs of blisters, you may feel as if you’re only coming down with the flu.
You may experience chills and fever, as well as intense pain. It’s not until a few days later that a rash finally joins these shingles symptoms, with clusters of tiny, pimple-like blisters progressing quickly once they appear.
If you’re familiar with the signs and symptoms of shingles, you’ll be able to recognize what’s going on, get a diagnosis quickly, and deal with it without delay. Doing so makes you less likely to develop complications, such as nerve issues or bacterial skin infections.
This article reviews the symptoms of shingles and what you need to know about potential complications.
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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.
What Are Risk Factors For Shingles
Shingles can only occur in individuals who have previously been exposed to the varicella-zoster virus. Risk factors for the development of shingles include the following:
- Increasing age: Though shingles can rarely occur in children, it is much more common in older adults, with the incidence increasing with age. This is thought to be in large part due to waning immunity as people age. Approximately 50% of all cases of shingles occur in adults 60 years of age or older.
- Weakened immune system: Individuals with impaired immune systems have a higher probability of developing shingles. This can be seen in diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, or in individuals taking certain medications. Patients taking steroids or other immunosuppressive medications, such as people who have undergone organ transplants, and individuals with certain autoimmune diseases are at increased risk for developing shingles.
- Psychological and emotional stressors are also thought to possibly contribute to the development of shingles, perhaps from the detrimental effects of stress on the immune system and the persons health.
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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.
S Of The Shingles Rash
If you have a rash of blisters on your skin or a rash that looks like any shown below, see your doctor immediately for a diagnosis. If you have shingles, its important to get treatment, preferably within 2 to 3 days.
If youve had the rash for longer than 2 to 3 days, its still important to see your doctor.
A typical shingles rash
Doctors often refer to this rash as the shingles band because it looks like a band that appears on one area of your body, as shown here.
A rash on one side of the body
A key that you have shingles is that the rash only develops on one side of your body.
Close-up of a shingles rash
The shingles rash often causes a cluster of tiny blisters. You may notice that the skin beneath the blisters is red and inflamed, as shown here.
The rash will also feel painful.
Blistering shingles rash on a mans chest
Although the rash can begin in one area, you may notice that a few scattered blisters develop in other areas, as shown here.
Shingles rash on the palm of a mans hand
While shingles tends to develop on your body or face, it can appear anywhere on your skin.
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Who Should Not Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
You shouldnt receive the Shingrix vaccine if you:
- Have ever had a severe allergy to this vaccine or any ingredient in this vaccine.
- Are breastfeeding or pregnant.
- Are ill and have a high fever.
- Have tested negative for immunity to varicella-zoster virus .
Ask your healthcare provider if the benefits of getting the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed
Your healthcare provider will do a complete physical exam and ask about your medical history, specifically about whether you have ever had chickenpox.
Your healthcare provider will likely know right away that it is shingles based on the unique rash. The rash usually appears one area on one side of the body or face. It appears as red spots, small fluid- or pus-filled vesicles, or scabs.
The healthcare provider may also take skin scrapings for testing.
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Which Shingles Vaccine Is Best
Eventually, your doctor will start mentioning the shingles vaccine which can help prevent shingles from developing, as well as reduce its severity if it does still develop. The shingles vaccine can also reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia, one of the most common complications of shingles.
“Because shingles becomes increasingly more common as a person ages, the shingles vaccine is currently recommended for people over the age of 50. There are two vaccine options, Shingrix and Zostavax, with Shingrix being the newer of the two vaccines and the preferred choice as it is more effective.”
When it comes to how the shingles vaccine works, Shingrix is a shot that requires two doses administered six months apart. There are temporary side of effects of this shingles vaccine that can be unpleasant, however. Shingles vaccine side effects typically don’t last more than three days, but include:
- Redness or swelling
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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What Are The Complications Of Shingles
After the shingles rash has disappeared, you might continue to have nerve pain in that same area. Postherpetic neuralgia can last for months or years and become quite severe.
More than 10% of people who get shingles develop postherpetic neuralgia. Researchers dont know why some people get postherpetic neuralgia and others dont. It may be that nerves become more sensitive or that the virus may be invading and damaging the central nervous system.
Other complications include:
- Other types of nerve issues like numbness or itching.
- A bacterial infection of the shingles rash.
- Eye and ear inflammation if the rash is near these organs.
What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles Without A Rash
The symptoms of ZSH are similar to the symptoms of shingles, but without a rash. The symptoms are usually isolated to one side of the body and commonly occur on the face and neck, and in the eyes. Symptoms can also occur in the internal organs. Typical symptoms include:
Shingles isnt contagious. You cant give someone else shingles. If you have shingles and are in contact with someone who hasnt had chickenpox or wasnt vaccinated for chickenpox, you can give that person chickenpox. That person would have to come in direct contact with your shingles rash.
If you have shingles without a rash, you shouldnt be able to pass it to others. Still, its a good idea to avoid contact with people who havent had chickenpox as well as pregnant women until your other symptoms have cleared up.
You can only get shingles if youve had chickenpox in the past. Youre at an increased risk for shingles if you:
- are over age 50
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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.
How Is It Treated
It is best to start treatment as soon as possible after you notice the rash. See your healthcare provider to discuss treatment with antiviral medicine, such as acyclovir. This medicine is most effective if you start taking it within the first 3 days of the rash. Antiviral medicine may speed your recovery and lessen the chance that the pain will last for a long time.
Your provider may also recommend or prescribe:
- medicine for pain
- antibacterial salves or lotions to help prevent bacterial infection of the blisters
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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.
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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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.
When Should I See A Doctor
If you think you may have shingles, see your doctor as soon as possible. Treatment is most effective when given within 72 hours of the appearance of rash and blisters, advises Dr. Mohring. Any rash accompanied by pain, including fever or headache, should prompt you to have a conversation with your doctor, especially if its a fluid-filled blister.
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Herpes Simplex Is Mistaken For The Shingles Rash
Herpes simplex type 1 causes blisters or sores on the mouth, lips, and face, and is transmitted by contact with saliva containing the virus. Herpes simplex type 2 is sexually transmitted and causes similar sores and ulcers on and around the genitals. Either type of herpes remains dormant in the body and can cause future outbreaks. The blisters caused by herpes simplex could be mistaken for those caused by the shingles virus, but herpes sores are usually localized around the mouth or genitals.
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Will Shingles Go Away On Its Own
Shingles isnât 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.
âSeveral 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 itâs important to see your doctor as soon as you suspect shingles,â says Dr. Brown. âWhen 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.â
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
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Once Youve Had Shingles Can It Come Back
Reoccurrence is relatively uncommon. Only a small percentage of patients may have a second episode, more commonly in women. Three or more shingles episodes in the same person is considered extremely rare, says Dr. Mohring. In this case, it would prompt us to investigate other potential diseases that may be going on. Those with higher risk factors, especially weakened immune systems or autoimmune disease, are the most at risk for reoccurrence.
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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.
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Chickenpox Is Caused By The Same Virus
The same virus, varicella zoster virus, causes both chickenpox and shingles.
Chickenpox typically causes an itchy rash that spreads over the entire body, as opposed to just one side of the body or face like shingles. More than 99 percent of Americans born on or before 1980 have had chickenpox, per the CDC. If you dont know if you had chickenpox, check with your family doctor, who can review your records.
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.
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