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.
Shingles Vaccination What You Should Know:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends shingles vaccine for people 60 years of age and older. This is a one-time vaccination to prevent shingles. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.
Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chickenpox or not. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they dont remember getting the disease.
Your risk for getting shingles begins to rise around age 50. However, shingles vaccine is only recommended for persons age 60 and older because the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine have only been studied in this age group.
Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the shingles vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your healthcare provider. Generally, a person should make sure that the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
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Signs Of Shingles Before The Rash Appears
Before the rash appears, early warning signs of shingles, which may be present, include:
- Itching, burning pain, numbness, tingling in the place where the rash will develop
- Flu-like symptoms such as chills, fever, headache, feeling fatigued or overly tired
After the initial skin complaints develop into the shingles rash, the condition typically lasts for two to four weeks. The pain typically worsens as the rash develops and alleviates as it heals.
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How Contagious Are Chickenpox Vs Shingles
Chickenpox is highly contagious and can easily be transmitted to people who havent had chickenpox or havent been vaccinated. Its still possible to get chickenpox if youve been vaccinated, but its less likely.
Shingles cant be passed between people, and it only occurs in people whove previously had chickenpox. But if a person who hasnt been exposed to the virus touches the fluid in your rash, they can develop chickenpox. Covering your rash can help prevent passing it to others.
When Should I Get The Shingles Vaccine
The current shingles vaccine is a safe, easy, and more effective way to prevent shingles than the previous vaccine. In fact, it is over 90% effective at preventing shingles. Most adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine, which is given in two doses. You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies.
You should get the shingles vaccine if you:
- Have already had chickenpox, the chickenpox vaccine, or shingles
- Received the prior shingles vaccine called Zostavax
- Dont remember having had chickenpox
Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
You should not get vaccinated if you:
- Currently have shingles
- Are sick or have a fever
- Had an allergic reaction to a previous dose of the shingles vaccine
If you are unsure about the above criteria or have other health concerns, talk with your doctor before getting 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.
How Is Shingles Treated
There is no cure for shingles, but antiviral medicine may relieve the symptoms and help prevent complications. See your doctor for a prescription of antiviral medicines as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Treatment should be started within 3 days of the shingles rash appearing.
If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about whether antivirals are right for you.
Over-the counter medicines, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, can be used for pain relief. If over-the-counter medicines are not controlling your pain, your doctor may prescribe other medicines.
There are several things you can do to help manage the condition. They include the following.
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Is The Zostavax Vaccine Still Being Used
Yes. The CDC, however, recommends Zostavax for adults age 60 and older, but not routinely for people aged 50 to 59. Zostavax is given as a single-dose shot versus the two-dose shot for Shingrix. Zostavax is less effective than Shingrix in preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia .
You can consider Zostavax if you are allergic to Shingrix or if Shingrix is unavailable because of supply shortage and you want some immediate protection from a possible case of shingles and/or postherpetic neuralgia. Because its a weakened live vaccine, it may be dangerous if you have cancer, HIV, or take steroids, chemotherapy or other medications that suppress your immune system. Ask your healthcare provider if the Zostavax vaccine is an option for you.
What Problems Can Happen
Most cases of shingles heal on their own, with or without treatment, and won’t lead to any other problems. In rare cases, shingles can lead to complications, including:
- Ongoing pain : Damaged nerve fibers in the skin send confused messages to the brain, leading to pain. Pain can go on for a long time after the shingles rash is gone. This is the most common shingles complication.
- Vision problems: Shingles near or in an eye can lead to vision loss.
- Skin infections: A shingles rash can become infected with bacteria, leading to impetigo or cellulitis.
- Nervous system problems: Shingles on the face can involve different nerves that connect to the brain. This can lead to nerve-related problems such as facial paralysis, hearing problems, and problems with balance. In very rare cases, shingles can lead to encephalitis .
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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.
Im Pregnant And Have Recently Been Exposed To Someone With Chickenpox How Will This Exposure Affect Me Or My Pregnancy
- Susceptible pregnant women are at risk for associated complications when they contract varicella. Varicella infection causes severe illness in pregnant women, and 10%-20% of those infected develop varicella pneumonia, with mortality reported as high as 40%.
- Because of these risks, pregnant women without evidence of immunity to varicella who have been exposed to the virus may be given varicella-zoster immune globulin to reduce their risk of disease complications.
- If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, and you get chickenpox during the:
- First half of your pregnancy, there is a very slight risk for birth defects or miscarriage.
- Second half of your pregnancy, the baby may have infection without having any symptoms and then get shingles later in life.
- Newborns whose mothers develop varicella rash from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery are at risk for neonatal varicella, associated with mortality as high as 30%. These infants should receive preventive treatment with varicella-zoster immune globulin .
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What Are Risk Factors For Shingles
A weakened immune system might wake up the virus. After youâve had chickenpox, youâre more likely to get shingles if you:
- Are 50 or older
- Are under a lot of stress
- Have cancer, HIV, or another disease that lowers your bodyâs defenses
- Have had a serious physical injury
- Take long-term steroids or other medicines that can weaken your immune system
But many people who get shingles donât fit into any of these categories.
How Do You Get Shingles
You may have heard about shingles from commercials advertising a vaccine but do you know what it is and how you become infected?
Shingles is known to the medical community as the Herpes Zoster virus. It is actually the reactivation of a previous infection of chicken pox, the Varicella Zoster virus. After a person recovers from chicken pox, the virus lays dormant or inactive in the body, usually in the nerve roots that control sensation. For reasons unknown to scientists, the virus reactivates. This results in a painful, yet localized skin rash with blisters that usually follow a single nerve distribution originating at the spine. Because of this very characteristic pattern, it will only be present on one side of the body.
Risk factors for contracting shingles are common, and most people in the community have one or more these risk factors. The risk factor that most people have in common is a history of chicken pox infection or inoculation with the chicken pox vaccine, because now the person may carry the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles. Individuals over 50, and those who are immunosuppressed due to conditions such as HIV, cancer, or organ transplants have a greater chance of getting shingles. As well as those who have decreased ability to fight infection due to stress or other immune deficiencies. However, the bottom line is that the majority of the individuals who contract shingles are relatively healthy individuals.
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When You Should See Your Doctor
Go to your doctor as soon as you see the rash, as treatment is most effective if its started early.
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine, which may help you recover faster and will reduce the chance that the pain will last for a long time.
Your doctor may also give you medicine for pain relief.
See your doctor again if:
- you get any blisters on your face
- your fever or pain gets worse
- your neck gets stiff, you cant hear properly or you feel less able to think clearly
- you develop new symptoms such as drooping or weakness to one side of your face
- the blisters show signs of infection or if you see milky yellow drainage from the blister sites.
Call Healthline if you are unsure what you should do.
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.
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What If Ive Had The Vaccine For Chickenpox
Many young adults have had the vaccine for VZV, the virus that causes chickenpox. Although uncommon, its still possible to develop shingles if youve had the vaccine.
People whove received the VZV vaccine are at a lower risk for developing shingles. For example, a 2019 study in children found that the incidence of shingles was
Is Shingles Contagious
Yes. You can spread the varicella zoster virus to people whoâve never had chickenpox and havenât been vaccinated.
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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.
Home Care For Shingles
Colloidal oatmeal baths are an old standby for relieving the itch of chickenpox and can help with shingles, as well. To speed up the drying out of the blisters, try placing a cool, damp washcloth on the rash If your doctor gives you the green light, stay active while recovering from shingles. Gentle exercise or a favorite activity may help keep your mind off the discomfort.
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Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles already.
- Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
- You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.
Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.
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Shingles Or Something Else
Small blisters that appear only on the lips or around the mouth may be cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters. Theyre not shingles, but are instead caused by the herpes simplex virus. Itchy blisters that appear after hiking, gardening, or spending time outdoors could be a reaction to poison ivy, oak, or sumac. If you arent sure whats causing your rash, see your healthcare provider.
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Who Is At Risk For Shingles
You! About 98 percent of adults have had chickenpox and are at risk for shingles. In the United States, at least 1 million people get shingles each year. Shingles is far more common in people age 50 and older than in younger people. About half of shingles cases occur in people age 60 or older. It is more common in people who have a weakened immune system because of a disease, such as cancer or human immunodeficiency virus , or from drugs, like steroids or chemotherapy. Anyone can get shingles, though, including children.
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What Are The Stages Of Shingles Symptoms
There are no formal, clinical stages of shingles, but symptoms generally fall into three stages. Beginning to end, shingles can last 24 weeks.
Contact your doctor right away if you have symptoms of shingles. Early treatment with antiviral medication may help lessen the severity, speed recovery time, and lower the potential for complications.
Stay Away From Certain Groups Of People If You Have Shingles
You cannot spread shingles to others. But people who have not had chickenpox before could catch chickenpox from you.
This is because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
Try to avoid:
- pregnant people who have not had chickenpox before
- people with a weakened immune system like someone having chemotherapy
- babies less than 1 month old unless you gave birth to them, as your baby should be protected from the virus by your immune system
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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
Early symptoms of shingles may include:
Other signs and symptoms that appear a few days after the early symptoms include:
- An itching, tingling or burning feeling in an area of your skin.
- Redness on your skin in the affected area.
- Raised rash in a small area of your skin.
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open then scab over.
- Mild to severe pain in the area of skin affected.