Shingles is a disease that causes intense physical discomfort, affects your nerves, and is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus responsible for chickenpox.

How Did I Get Shingles?

When you have chickenpox, some virus escapes into the nervous system where it lies dormant.

Unfortunately, in about one in three adults the virus reactivates and leads to shingles, not  chickenpox, according to the National Institute on Aging.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

Doctors don’t know what causes the virus to reactivate, but have ruled out underlying illnesses as the reason.

Shingles are frequently found in a small area on one side of your face or body and present as rashes or blisters. If you have an autoimmune illness, you may be administered a shingles test that can give a diagnosis with no visible rash. Symptoms include:

  • Shooting pains
  • Rash or Allodynia
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Intense itching
  • Numbness of the skin
  • Feeling sick—chills, fever, upset stomach, or headache
  • Fluid-filled blisters

Other symptoms can include — loss of eyesight and hiccups. There is no cure for shingles, but early treatment can lessen the duration of the outbreak and physical pain. It almost never requires hospitalization.

What Should I Do If I Develop Shingles?

Things you can do at home for discomfort relief:

  • Eat nutritious meals and rest.
  • Light exercises — walking and stretching. (Check with your doctor first)
  • Apply cool washcloths to the blisters
  • Occupy your mind (binge-watch Netflix, do a hobby or relax to music).
  • Stay stress-free and share your feelings about your shingles pain
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Oatmeal baths or calamine lotion for skin relief.

Is Shingles Contagious?

Shingles are not contagious per se, shingles are a result of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), being in your body. So, you cannot catch shingles from anyone but you can get chickenpox if you’ve never had it.

If you’re diagnosed with shingles you should stay away from anyone whose immune system is compromised and anyone who’s never had chickenpox.

Reduce the spread by:

  • Covering up the rash
  • Do not touch or scratch the rash
  • Constantly wash your hands

Are There Any Risk Factors — Can It Be Prevented?

There is no test to determine who will develop shingles. However, here are some risk factors:.

  • Aging – Shingles risk increases with age as age and other health issues can make it harder for the body to fight off infection. The chance of developing shingles increases between the ages of 60 and 70.
  • Trouble fighting infections – If your body has a hard time fighting off infections such as a cold, or getting too much sun exposure, it can put you at risk. HIV, cancer and some medications also put you at risk because they cause stress to your immune system, weakening your body’s defense.

How Long Does The Shingles Pain Last?

Shingles normally last about 3 to 5 weeks following a pattern.

The pattern is as follows, according to the National Institute on Aging

  1. The first sign is burning or tingling, pain; sometimes, with numbness or itching on one side of the body.
  2. Between one and five days after it starts, a red rash appears.
  3. A few days later, the rash turns into fluid-filled blisters.
  4. A week to ten days later, the blisters dry up and crust over.
  5. A few weeks later, the scabs will clear up.

Will There be Long Term Effects?

After the shingles pain and rash gets better, a few people may continue to experience pain called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), along with  depression, anxiety, insomnia, and weight loss. Pain usually occurs where the rash was and has been said to be the longest and most painful part of shingles with age, increasing the risk of developing PHN and generally improving over time.

If you notice blisters on your face—this is an urgent problem that can cause permanent eye damage or blindness. Hearing loss, short-term paralysis of the face, and, rarely, encephalitis can occur.

Is Getting the Shingles Vaccine Right For You?

Healthy adults aged 50 and above should get vaccinated, so speak with your doctor about shingles vaccine options.

If you notice an unusual rash or have any other pain concerns, please contact Southeast Pain & Spine Care (SEPSC)  today for a consultation. Our expert team of medical professionals specializes in ailments of the nerves, neck, back and joints. We look forward to helping you live more comfortably.