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.
Who Should Not Get Shingrix
You should not get Shingrix if you:
- have ever had a severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine or after a dose of Shingrix
- tested negative for immunity to varicella zoster virus. If you test negative, you should get chickenpox vaccine.
- currently have shingles
- currently are pregnant or breastfeeding. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should wait to get Shingrix.
If you have a minor acute illness, such as a cold, you may get Shingrix. But if you have a moderate or severe acute illness, you should usually wait until you recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3°F or higher.
The side effects of the Shingrix are temporary, and usually last 2 to 3 days. While you may experience pain for a few days after getting Shingrix, the pain will be less severe than having shingles and the complications from the disease.
How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Diagnosed
Postherpetic neuralgia is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms, history of having shingles and physical exam. If youve had a recent case of shingles and have pain in the area where the shingles rash once was, you likely have PHN. Your provider may want to make sure your pain is not caused by something else, but in most cases, no other tests are needed.
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Who Is At Risk Of Getting Postherpetic Neuralgia
Factors that increase the risk of developing postherpetic neuralgia include:
- Older age: The chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia increases with age. If youre older and develop shingles, youre more likely to develop PHN and have longer lasting and more severe pain than a younger person with shingles. About 10 to 13% of people over age 50 who have had shingles will get PHN. People under age 40 rarely get PHN.
- Weakened immune system: Your immune system weakens as you get older, which allows the inactive varicella-zoster virus to become active again and cause shingles in some people. Medical conditions that can weaken your immune system include cancer, chronic infectious diseases , being an organ transplant recipient or taking medications that weaken your immune system .
- Severity of your shingles: If you have a severe rash, you have a greater chance of PHN.
- Painful, itchy or tingly feeling before shingles rash: If you had these symptoms in an area of skin a few days before your shingles rash broke out, you are at higher risk of PHN.
- Waiting to see your healthcare provider after shingles rash: If you wait longer than three days after your rash appeared missing the window to receive antiviral drugs you have an increased chance of PHN.
Myth : You Dont Need To Worry About Being Contagious
Shingles, as a disease, isn’t contagious in other words, you cant get shingles from someone who has shingles. But the virus that causes it is quite contagious and can be spread easily by way of droplets dispersed in the air when, say, someone talks or breathes.
It can also spread if someone comes in contact with the virus-causing skin blisters, which is why, if you have shingles, its important to keep your rash covered. If someone hasn’t had chickenpox or isn’t vaccinated for it, they can get infected with the virus if they come in contact with the ooze from the lesions . People with shingles cannot spread the virus before rash blisters appear or after the rash crusts, the CDC notes.
Finally, you can get shingles more than once if your immune system is strained. So take care of yourself: Minimize stress, get enough sleep, eat good-for-you foods, and stick to an exercise routine. And if you think you have shingles, get yourself to a doctor as soon as possible.
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How Long Is Shingles Contagious
Similar to chickenpox, shingles is a contagious illness. But, before we address how long you may be contagious, we need to talk about how shingles spreads which might actually surprise you.
“Shingles is indeed contagious, but it can only be spread to people who haven’t yet had chickenpox, or the chickenpox vaccine. In these cases, the shingles virus typically spreads via direct contact with the opened blisters of your rash. After being infected, a person doesn’t develop shingles, though he or she develops chickenpox,” explains Dr. Brown.
Since you can’t really know who is and who isn’t susceptible to chickenpox, it’s important to take safety measures if you have shingles.
“When you have shingles, you’re considered contagious until your open sores crust and scab over. This generally takes between 7 to 10 days,” says Dr. Brown. “Depending on where your rash develops on your body and where you work, you may be able to return to work before your shingles dry up.”
Before your rash dries up, Dr. Brown recommends the following to prevent spreading shingles to others:
- Make sure your rash is covered with gauze
- Limit interaction with other people if your shingles rash is on your face
- Consult with your doctor about returning to work if you work in a medical setting or nursing home, as well as if you interact with people frequently while at work
When To See A Doctor About Shingles
If you notice any symptoms of shingles, Dr. Wild suggests contacting your doctor for a phone or video appointment to discuss your symptoms further.
“You might need medicine to help speed up your recovery and avoid longer-lasting problems. In any case, your doctor will be able to help,” Dr. Wild adds
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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.
Dr Ellie Cannon: How Long Will It Be Before I’m Free From The Pain Of Shingles
I had shingles a few months ago and was given tablets. The blisters have gone but I still have pain across the side of my ribs where they were. Will it go away?
Something I noticed, during lockdown was a larger-than-usual number of my patients getting shingles.
Its a nasty condition caused by the same virus as chickenpox, which lives, dormant, in our bodies after we first get it as youngsters.
It can, for a variety of reasons, become reactivated.
Most people will suffer for a few weeks but for some it may go on as long as a year and it is hard to say why it persists, writes Dr Ellie Cannon
No one knows for sure why it happens but its thought its linked to a lowered immunity.
Stress, sun exposure, illnesses or medicines that suppress the immune system, and simply older age, are also thought to raise the risk.
The virus varicella zoster lives in the nerves and so the blisters usually appear along a line the nerve supplies.
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What Outcome Can I Expect If I Have Postherpetic Pain
Theres no standard treatment for the symptoms of postherpetic pain . Depending on the severity of your pain, you may start with over-the-counter products. If your pain is more severe, one or more prescription medications may be tried. PHN is difficult to treat. Achieving a complete symptom-free state was achieved in less than half the patients with PHN, according to one study.
PHN tends to happen in older individuals who may have other health conditions, which can complicate treatment and results. Pain can last weeks, months and even longer than a year. In some people, the pain can be debilitating. In most people, PHN lessens with time.
A note from Cleveland ClinicThe best way to not get postherpetic neuralgia is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Varicella-zoster virus causes both chickenpox and shingles. Vaccines are available to protect against developing both of these viral infections.
Once you develop chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains in your body for life. If the virus reactivates and causes shingles, you have a few days around the rash outbreak to see your provider and get an antiviral medication, which can significantly lessen your symptoms. Still, if you develop PHN, your provider has many medications available to manage your symptoms.
Could Long Covid Unlock Clues To Chronic Fatigue And Other Poorly Understood Conditions
In early 2020, Alison Sbrana watched the coronavirus skip from China across continents with a sense of impending doom. Sbrana, plagued by fatigue and brain fog since being diagnosed with mononucleosis six years earlier, was convinced that the pernicious new virus would wreak similar havoc in some of those who contracted it.
Her intuition proved prescient. Some people who had suffered even mild cases of covid-19 began complaining of problems that Sbrana knew too well, including muscle pain and drop-dead exhaustion. Now, as millions of people nationwide are suffering from long-haul covid, Sbrana and an army of patient advocates are cautiously hopeful that new research may unlock clues to other conditions that appear to crop up after infections, including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, known as ME/CFS.
I think there is potential, said Sbrana, who suffers from ME/CFS.
Covid long-haulers inherited many of the challenges that have faced people like Sbrana for years, including a lack of understanding of the mechanisms that triggered their disabilities leaving some doctors to view their symptoms as largely psychosomatic.
Or, if researchers put the recovery process from this new disease under closer scrutiny, could they expose patterns and even find treatments common to other post-infectious conditions?
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Who Should Get The Shingrix Vaccine
The Shringrix vaccine is recommended in healthy adults age 50 and older. There is no maximum age. You should get the vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles.
- Youre not sure if youd had chickenpox .
- Youve already had the Zostavax vaccine. This vaccine for shingles is no longer available in the U.S. Ask your healthcare provider about the best time to get the Shingrix vaccine.
If you currently have shingles, you need to wait until the shingles rash has gone away. Talk with your provider about the proper time to begin vaccination with Shingrix.
Can Shingles Be Prevented
A vaccination called Zostavax reduces the likelihood of developing shingles. If you are over 50, you can talk to your doctor about whether you need it. It is recommended for everyone over 60. It 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. Zostavax is not the same as the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox. Read more about the chickenpox vaccine here.
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What Are The Different Stages Of Shingles
The stages of Shingles symptoms
- Prodromal stage â this occurs before the rash appears. This is characterized by burning, itching or tingling numbness.
- Active stage â At this stage the rash and blisters appear.
- Postherpetic neuralgia â This is a long term condition after shingles much after the rash has disappeared.
When Should I See A Doctor Because Of The Side Effects I Experience From Shingrix
In clinical trials, Shingrix was not associated with serious adverse events. In fact, serious side effects from vaccines are extremely rare. For example, for every 1 million doses of a vaccine given, only one or two people may have a severe allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction happen within minutes or hours after vaccination and include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, or weakness. If you experience these or any other life-threatening symptoms, see a doctor right away.
Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system, so it may produce short-term side effects more intense than you are used to from other vaccines. These side effects can be uncomfortable, but they are expected and usually go away on their own in 2 or 3 days.
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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.
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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Myth : Shingles Can’t Be Prevented
Not true. You can get a shingles vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the two-dose Shingrix vaccine for most people 50 and older, including adults who have chronic health conditions, although its always important to consult with your doctor first. You can get vaccinated at a doctor’s office or pharmacy just be sure to return between two and six months later for your second shot.
Shingrix is approximately 90 percent effective with two shots and stays 85 percent effective for four years, the CDC says. And since the shingles vaccine became available in 1995, hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus have dropped significantly: 93 percent and 94 percent, respectively.
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Had shingles in the past? Even if thats the case, Patel says, the vaccine can help keep you from having subsequent reactivation.
Note that Zostavax, another shingles vaccine, is no longer available in the U.S. The so-called live vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and discontinued in November 2020. The CDC recommends that individuals who received Zostavax in the past get Shingrix.
How Is Postherpetic Neuralgia Treated
If shingles is caught within the first three days of its outbreak, your healthcare provider may prescribe the antiviral medication acyclovir , valacyclovir or famciclovir . These medications help the rash/blisters heal faster, keep new sores from forming, decrease pain and itching and reduce length of pain after sores have healed.
If your shingles outbreak is not caught early, your healthcare providers has many options to manage your postherpetic neuralgia symptoms.
If your pain is mild, your healthcare provider may recommend:
- Acetaminophen or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen .
- Creams and patches include lidocaine and capsaicin .
If your pain is more severe, your healthcare may prescribe:
- Antiseizure drugs gabapentin and pregabalin .
- Antidepressants, such as escitalopram , quetiapine or amitriptyline.
- Botulinum toxin injections in the area where you are having pain.
Theres no clear-cut superior treatment for PHN. Your provider may need to try more than one medication or prescribe the use of several medications at the same time. You and your provider will discuss options and what makes sense to try for you. Contact your provider if your pain is not lessening after taking your medicine. Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
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