What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a painful rash that can appear anywhere on a patient’s body, but it most likely presents as a single line of blisters on either side of the torso or on one side of the face. Shingles can lead to serious health complications, including postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) — a condition that causes intense, burning pain that can endure long after shingles is healed. The older a patient is when they develop shingles, the more likely they are to subsequently develop PHN.
The visible symptoms of shingles typically show up on a concentrated area of the body, whether on the face and torso. Shingles pain is usually the first symptom of the condition. Depending on the pain’s location, shingles might be mistaken as a symptom of other conditions affecting the heart, kidneys, or lungs. The following are a number of the most common signs and symptoms of shingles.
- Burning, Numbness, Or Tingling
- Sensitivity Light & Touch
- Red Rash
- Fluid-Filled Blisters
- Skin Discomfort
Is Shingles Contagious?
Shingles is not contagious — it is not possible to contract shingles from another person who has it. However, there is a small risk that a patient with a shingles rash will spread the virus to another person who never had chickenpox or was vaccinated for chickenpox, especially those with a weakened or suppressed immune system, pregnant women, and newborns. Patients with shingles can prevent spreading the virus to others by covering their rash, avoiding touching or scratching the rash, washing their hands frequently, and avoiding contact with those at high risk of contracting the virus until the rash crusts. Primary risk factors for contracting shingles include the following.
- Adults 50 Or Older
- Pre-Existing Conditions
- Undergoing Cancer Treatments
- Prolonged Use Of Steroids
- Taking Drugs Given After Organ Transplantation
What Causes Shingles?
The primary causes of shingles include exposure to the varicella-zoster virus — this is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Any patient who’s previously had chickenpox might develop shingles. Once a patient recovers from having chickenpox, the virus enters their nervous system and lies dormant for years. At some point, the virus may reactivate and travel to the skin through nerve pathways, producing shingles. But not everyone with chickenpox will develop shingles, but approximately one-third of the population is likely to develop the condition.
How Long Does Shingles Last?
Most cases of shingles last between 3–5 weeks and follow a consistent pattern of pain and healing — or stages of shingles. For patients with healthy immune systems, the blisters tend to clear in 7–10 days, and the pain may stop in 1–2 months. The first sign is often burning sensations or tingling pain, but it may also include numbness or itching on one side of the body. A few days after the tingling or burning sensation develops on the skin, a rash appears. After, the rash produces fluid-filled blisters. Approximately a week to 10 days after the blisters appear, they dry out and crust over. Following this, the scabs clear up within a few weeks of this completed cycle.
What Shingles Treatments Are Available?
Treatment for shingles may include antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir, which reduce the shingles rash’s duration, decreasing the rash’s severity, and lowers the risk of developing long-lasting nerve pain and other subsequent health problems. To treat pain-related symptoms from shingles, our dermatologist may also recommend that you take over-the-counter medications, including acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you have severe pain, a corticosteroid, or another medication type that reduces inflammation, may be prescribed. To prevent shingles before it occurs, be sure to get the shingles vaccine.