The virus that causes shingles (varicella zoster) is present in the fluid within the blisters of people suffering from shingles. Transmission of this virus mainly occurs through direct or indirect contact with the fluid in the blisters. Rarely, the virus can be transmitted in droplets of saliva from the nose and mouth.
Open sores of any kind are always susceptible to bacterial infection. To lower the possibility of a secondary infection, keep the area clean and avoid scratching. Secondary infection is also more likely if you have a weakened immune system.
Shingles looks as painful as it sounds. Red patches of skin covered in bumps eventually erupt into fluid-filled blisters that ooze before eventually drying out and crusting over. The infected bands of skin typically wrap around one side of the body—left or right. Shingles mostly appears on the torso, face, and neck, but it has been known to pop up on an arm or leg.
The term shingles has nothing to do with a shingle on a roof or the small signboard outside the office of a doctor but is derived from the Latin cingulum meaning girdle, the idea being that shingles often girdles part of the body.
Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, often the face or torso. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks. Some people describe the pain as an intense burning sensation. For some people, the pain can last for months or even years after the rash goes away. This long-lasting pain is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and it is the most common complication of shingles. Your risk of getting shingles and PHN increases as you get older.
The shingles vaccines differ in two important Because the older one is a live virus vaccine, it is not as safe for people with significant immune disease such as advanced cancer, HIV, or treatment with immune suppressive drugs such as steroids or injectable medicines for rheumatoid arthritis. The new shingles vaccine, since it is not a live virus vaccine, does not carry these risks. The older vaccine had good but limited efficacy and a shorter period of protection as compared to the newer vaccine. That means that using the newer vaccine will reduce even further the possibility of a shingles outbreak and this, in turn, will prevent many cases of post-herpetic neuralgia. A third difference that we need to confirm over time is that the older vaccine did not provide any additional protection after the first administration. The newer vaccine should offer a longer period of protection and the option of a booster dose at a time when protection is waning.
Yes, but not in the way you may think. Your shingles rash will not trigger an outbreak of shingles in another person, but it can sometimes cause chickenpox in a child. People who’ve never had chickenpox, or the vaccine to prevent it, can pick up the virus by direct contact with the open sores of shingles. So keep a shingles rash covered and avoid contact with infants, as well as pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine.
As shingles is caused by a virus and cannot be cured with antibiotics, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms. Getting adequate rest is an important factor in the treatment of shingles. Other treatment may include:
^ Johnson, Robert W; Alvarez-Pasquin, Marie-José; Bijl, Marc; Franco, Elisabetta; Gaillat, Jacques; Clara, João G; Labetoulle, Marc; Michel, Jean-Pierre; Naldi, Luigi; Sanmarti, Luis S; Weinke, Thomas (2015). “Herpes zoster epidemiology, management, and disease and economic burden in Europe: A multidisciplinary perspective”. Therapeutic Advances in Vaccines. 3 (4): 109–20. doi:10.1177/2051013615599151. PMC 4591524 . PMID 26478818.
Shingles actually develops in stages, so it might take longer than most illnesses to progress to the point that it’s noticeable. The hallmark shingles symptoms that appear on the skin can take anywhere from several days to a couple of weeks to fully show up.
^ Thomas SL, Wheeler JG, Hall AJ (2002). “Contacts with varicella or with children and protection against herpes zoster in adults: a case-control study”. The Lancet. 360 (9334): 678–82. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)09837-9. PMID 12241874.
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Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus responsible for chicken pox: the varicella zoster virus. Even if you had chicken pox in the past, you can still contract shingles. That’s because the chicken-pox virus remains in the body, lying dormant in the roots of nerves, and can reactivate many years later. It’s not clear why the virus reawakens — in some people it never does — but researchers believe that the virus is triggered as the immune system weakens with age or in conditions of stress.
Shingles is often a severely painful skin condition. Some people may have pain in the general area days to weeks before the onset of the blisters. The most important clue to shingles diagnosis is unilateral pain and blisters on the skin. A typical shingles eruption never crosses the midline of the body and occurs only on one side: right or left. Extremely rare cases of shingles may become diffuse and spread to the entire body in patients with very compromised immune systems.
Living with a shingles rash can be made more comfortable by taking steps to relieve the symptoms. Keeping any rashes clean and dry helps to reduce the risk of them becoming infected. Wearing loose clothing can also help people to feel less uncomfortable while waiting for a rash to clear.
Because shingles affects the nerve cells it is common for the rash to appear as a band across the body or down the leg along the path of a nerve. Occasionally the rash does not eventuate after the initial pain has developed. The pain and other symptoms of shingles gradually resolve as the skin rash and blisters disappear. Full recovery from the condition usually occurs within 2-3 weeks, or up to 4 weeks in older adults.
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha’s educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
myDrReferences 1. National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition. Chapter 4.24 – Zoster (Herpes zoster) [accessed Sept 2015]. Available from: http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook10-home~handbook10part4~handbook10-4-24