Shingles is a painful rash caused by a virus. Shingles can occur anywhere in your body, but mostly they appear as a single thread of blisters on the left or right side of the body. From the appearance of the rash, doctors can quickly diagnose if it’s shingles or something else. The shingle rash appears in the form of a fluid-filled blister, always in the form of a thread. Shingles might last for two weeks to one month, and most people recover fully.
Causes of Shingles
If you have ever had chickenpox or gotten exposure to the chickenpox virus before, there are chances that the virus is still present in your body. The virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster, remains in the body after exposure to chickenpox, and it travels to the nervous system. The virus stays in an inactive form, in nerve tissue on the spinal cord and the brain. The virus might remain dormant for decades without causing any symptoms. Later on, the virus travels to the skin resulting in a painful rash called shingles.
Varicella virus is one of the herpes viruses. Being that the virus causes shingles is among the herpes virus, we can also refer to shingles as herpes zoster. However, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles is not the same as the virus that causes genital herpes and cold sore.
Signs and Symptoms of Shingles
The early signs of shingles appear five days before the rash. You will start feeling the early signs in the location where the rash will appear. The early symptoms include:
- Burning sensation
After some days, you will notice blotchy red patches forming on the base of your skin. The blotchy patches will start creating a cluster on one side of your body. The blotches then develop into itchy, fluid-filled blisters. When the rashes appear on both sides of your body, there are chances that it is not herpes zoster. After a few days, the blisters break open and dry out. There are some most effective shingles creams which help in drying out the shingles. Other than the rash on the skin, you may experience other symptoms like:
- Stomach upset
- Sensitivity to light
Is Shingles Contagious?
Shingles is not contagious, but when someone who has not contracted chickenpox comes into contact with herpes zoster, they contract chickenpox. When an infected person comes into direct contact with open shingle sores, they acquire the varicella-zoster virus. As long as your rashes have not dried out, avoid coming into direct contact with people who have not contracted chickenpox before or gotten the chickenpox vaccine. Also, avoid coming into contact with people with a low immune system, including children, older people, pregnant women, under medication, and people with underlying illnesses.
When To See a Doctor
Most times, the rashes dry out on their own, but you need to see a doctor when the symptoms become severe. There are various situations where you will need a doctor’s attention. This includes:
- When the rash appears on the face, it puts you at a risk of developing herpes zoster on the eyes, which might lead to permanent eye damage.
- When you are more than 60 years old, when more senior, there are high chances of the infection being severe.
- When the rash is widespread, and it has lasted for more than 10 days without signs of improvement. In this case, the doctor might prescribe shingles cream that will help dry out the rashes.
- When the pain becomes too much, you might need the doctor to prescribe some medicine to ease the pain.
- When you stay with someone who has a weakened immune, in this case, you will need a shingles cream to dry out the shingle to avoid infecting others.
Treatment and Prevention of Shingles
Shingles have no cure, but taking antiviral drugs might help when the symptoms are severe. When the rashes take long to dry out, various most effective shingles creams might help ease the itching. When you visit the doctor immediately after noticing the shingles, they will prescribe medication to make the herpes zoster mild. Various home remedies can help you feel better when having shingles. Take bed rest, avoid stress, dump clothe on the rash, and buy over-the-counter most effective shingles creams.
You can prevent getting shingles by getting the chickenpox vaccine. The vaccine will weaken the varicella-zoster vaccine, making it no stay in the body for long. Alternatively, if you have not been infected with chickenpox before, avoid coming into direct contact with someone who has shingles. When you have shingles, wash your hands regularly and keep the rash covered to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Not all rashes are symptoms of shingles. If you develop small blisters around the lips, it might be cold sores and not herpes zoster. When you feel pain in a particular area, it develops into a rash, and there are high chances of herpes zoster. The pain varies from one person to another; it might be mild or severe pain. If you are not sure if the rashes are shingles or not, consult your doctor.