What is Shingles
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash to form on the side of the face or body. The rash typically forms as a single stripe on either the left or right side of the body or face.
Symptoms of shingles include:
- Pain or burning
- Blisters that ooze fluid, and crust over
- Red or pink, blotchy rash (on the left or right side of the body or face)
Shingles is caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body, and can later reactivate causing shingles. Anyone that’s had chickenpox can develop shingles.
Is shingles contagious?
No. If you’re immune to chickenpox, you can’t get shingles from someone else. However, if you have never had chickenpox and haven’t received a vaccine, you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles.
Chicken pox are usually spread through contact with the open sores. So be sure to cover them up if you have shingles, just in case.
Can you get shingles more than once?
Most people that get shingles only experience it once in their life. However, it’s possible to have it more than once.
Some risk factors put you at a higher chance of developing shingles, if you’ve had chickenpox in your lifetime.
Risk factors include:
- Being older than 50
- Certain diseases that weaken the immune system (HIV, cancer, etc.)
- Cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy
- Certain medications (like the ones taken after organ transplants)
Some complications can arise from shingles.
These complications include:
- Vision loss (shingles around the eye, if untreated, can lead to eye infection)
- Skin infections
- Nerve damage and prolonged pain from shingles (postherpetic neuralgia)
- Neurological problems (depending on area that’s affected)
In most cases, shingles will go away on its own in 3-5 weeks. However, there are some antiviral medications that can help treat shingles, and reduce the length and severity of the outbreak. To be most effective, the sooner the medication is taken, the better.
Certain medications, lotions, and bathing are also common, to help relieve the pain and itching associated with shingles.
When to See a Medical Doctor
If you think you have shingles, the sooner you speak to a doctor, the better. They can properly asses the severity, and prescribe medications and treatment options to help.
Furthermore, if you are older than 60 (chances of complications rise with age), the pain and rash is located around your eye, or the rash is large and painful, speak to a doctor as speak to a doctor as soon as you can.