If you have been diagnosed with shingles, you’ve probably asked yourself the question: Are shingles contagious? And more importantly, how much of my life can I watch take place in public while I’m wearing a painful bandage?
Don’t worry — you’re not alone—these questions plague individuals dealing with shingles because the viral infection is found in the skin.
For those who have ever asked yourself: what are shingles? Well, today is the day that you can find that answer. In this article, we will answer all your queries regarding shingles.
What are Shingles?
Shingle is a viral infection that causes skin blisters to form on the body. The blisters can be painful and itchy. Shingles usually appear as a long, thin rash that begins on one side of your body and then spreads to the other, or vice versa.
Shingles typically affect people between 50 and 70 years old. However, anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles later in life.
The varicella zoster virus causes shingles. It’s an infection of your nerves and skin. When you’re infected with chickenpox, there’s no evidence you’ll ever get shingles because your immune system will destroy the virus. But when you’ve had shingles before, there’s a slight chance that you’ll get it again.
The most common symptom is itching or burning pain that starts on one side of the torso and moves to another part of your body within about two weeks (sometimes less than a week).
Sometimes there’s only mild pain or no pain at all. But most people find that their joints become very stiff and painful for several days after they develop shingles symptoms.
The most common type of shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This virus causes chickenpox but can also cause shingles when it remains in the body over years or decades. It usually occurs between 50 and 60 years of age but can appear as early as 40 and last up to 10 years after symptoms begin; however, it can last much longer.
2. Primary HSV
In this type of Shingle, both herpes viruses reactivate, causing sores on the same area; these often appear as blisters at first, followed by a crusty scab which may crack open during the healing time.
3. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV can severely weaken your immune system, so it’s more susceptible to other infections like Shingles. People living with HIV risk developing shingles because of their weakened immune systems and low CD4+ T cells.
Shingles’ symptoms are not severe, but they can be uncomfortable. They include:
- A burning or tingling sensation where the rash appears.
- Pain, itching, and sensitivity to light.
- Swelling and redness in the mouth or throat (pharyngitis) for several days after the rash appears. The sore throat is often worse at night, and you may have a fever with this condition.
- Swelling that may last for 2 to 3 weeks before going away on its own.
- Red patches may be painful and itch, particularly if you touch them.
- A painful, itching rash that starts on one side of the body and moves to the other side. The rash may cover only a small area, or it may cover the entire body.
- Soreness and tingling around the eyes, nose, mouth, and throat.
- Soreness in the lymph nodes near your collarbone. Lymph nodes are collections of immune system cells that house white blood cells (lymphocytes) that fight infection.
- Swollen glands. These glands are responsible for making saliva, tears, and normal body fluids like sweat, milk, and urine. Swollen glands can occur as part of shingles, but they can also be caused by an underlying medical condition such as cancer or another type of illness.
How to Treat Shingles?
1. Identify Which Type of Shingle You Have
The first step in treating shingles is to identify which type of shingles you have: chickenpox, herpes zoster (commonly known as zoster), or postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). If you don’t know what type of shingles you have, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can help determine this information.
2. Preventing the Virus from Spreading
The first step in treating shingles is to prevent them from spreading. Shingles are caused by a virus that can be spread from person to person through contact with infected saliva, nasal mucus, or other secretions.
The best way to avoid spreading it is to stay away from anyone who has it and avoid touching anyone who has active chickenpox blisters or lesions until they have healed.
3. Treating the Pain of Shingles
Pain-relieving medications may help control pain and swelling associated with shingles. Examples include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and aspirin products such as Bayer Aspirin 81 mg tablets, Bristol-Meyer 99% Regular Strength Tylenol Caplets, and others.
Can You Get Shingles More Than Once?
You may have heard that you can get shingles more than once. This is true, but it’s essential to know that there are conditions that make this more likely.
Getting shingles more than once is possible, but it’s not common. If you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or HIV, you may be at higher risk of developing another outbreak of shingles.
Other factors that can increase your chance of getting shingles again include:
- Being over 50 years old.
- Having a weakened immune system due to illness or medication use.
- Having had chickenpox or being around someone who had chickenpox in the past.
- Having suffered from a severe reaction to an insect bite (such as a mosquito bite) within six weeks of having shingles for the first time.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Shingles?
There are several ways to reduce your risk of getting shingles:
1. Get Vaccinated Against Shingles
If you’ve had chickenpox, you’re immune to shingles for life. But if you haven’t had chickenpox or had it more than once, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated against shingles.
2. Avoid Stress
Stress can weaken the immune system, so managing stress in your life is essential. Stressful situations include financial problems and job changes.
If you have a close relationship with someone who has been diagnosed with cancer or a chronic illness, try to avoid making comments such as “I’m sure they’ll get over it.”
3. Take Good Care Of Yourself and Eat Right
If you smoke cigarettes or use alcohol regularly, stop doing so now! Smoking and drinking can increase your risk of developing shingles later in life.
Don’t forget to eat well, too – this means eating a variety of foods so that you give your body everything it needs to stay healthy!
4. Get At Distance from the People Who Have Shingles
If you or a loved one has had chickenpox or been exposed to someone who has it, you’ll have antibodies that protect against shingles for life. But these antibodies fade over time.
You should also avoid people who have had chickenpox in the past year and anyone who has had a large outbreak or small cluster of cases within the last 5 years — especially if they live in your neighborhood.
If you’re pregnant, avoid contact with anyone recently exposed to chickenpox (and vice versa). If you’re breastfeeding and infected with chickenpox, feed your baby only breast milk or formula fortified with vitamin C until you’ve been disease-free for 12 days.
Is Shingles Contagious?
Shingles are not contagious, but it is possible to catch chickenpox from a person who has chickenpox. The risk of catching shingles from a person who has them is lower than the risk of seeing them from a person who has chickenpox.
People who have never had chickenpox are at shallow risk of getting shingles from someone else who has shingles. But if you did get chickenpox as an adult and were not vaccinated against it, you may be at a higher risk for developing shingles later in life.
Shingles complications are rare, but they can develop in some people. Call your doctor immediately if you have shingles and have more than one complication.
The most common complications of shingles include:
1. Shingles Rash
The rash is a large red area on the skin after the blisters break open. It usually lasts for several weeks and may cover large areas of skin.
2. Shingles Pain or Neuralgia (Pain)
Shingles pain is severe and can last for months or years after you recover from the rash. Neuralgia is also called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). It can occur anytime during the recovery period after shingles, even years later. A herpes virus does not cause PHN; it’s caused by nerve damage from the shingles rash.
3. Shingles Skin Condition Called Post-Shingle Hyperpigmentation (PSH)
This condition occurs when pigment (color) develops on some body parts due to sunlight exposure after shingles have resolved.
Visit iCare Urgent Care, Argyle, TX
Shingles is highly contagious. This is why treating shingles immediately is so important! iCare Urgent Care makes patient care available when you need it. With our online appointment scheduler we are ready to provide rapid relief for your symptoms. Come see us today!