What are Shingles?
Shingles is an infection caused by a virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a chickenpox infection, the virus stays in your body without symptoms. Shingles occur when the virus reactivates in the body after time. It causes a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash consists of blisters that usually scab over in 7 to 10 days. It may take up to 4 weeks to completely resolve.
Signs and Symptoms
– pain, itching, or tingling in the area where it will develop
– a rash then occurs. Usually it appears in a stripe around one side of the body or face
– other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, upset stomach
– Shingles that occur on the face can affect the eye and cause vision loss
People are at a higher risk of developing shingles who are older or have a weakened immune system. You cannot get shingles from someone else who has it. Shingles only appear if you have already had the virus from chickenpox. If someone who has never had chickenpox has contact with someone who has active shingles, VZV can spread to them. They are now at risk of developing Chickenpox. Ways to prevent spreading VZV is to cover the rash, avoid touching or scratching, and wash hands frequently.
Long-term nerve pain is the most common complication and is very debilitating. Other complications include blindness, pneumonia, hearing problems, brain disease, and even death.
There are antiviral medications that help decrease the length and severity of Shingles. Medication is most effective if you start taking it early on. It is important to see your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect shingle. Over-the-counter pain medication, wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths help with pain and itching caused by shingles.
There is a vaccine available to help prevent Shingles! Two Shingrix vaccinations are recommended by the CDC for adults 50 years and older and adults 19 years and older if immunocompromised. The vaccination works for up to 7 years.
– 1 in 3 adults in the US will develop Shingles
– More than 99% of adults in America born before 1980 have had chickenpox, but may not remember it and are at risk.
– Children can develop shingles, but it is uncommon
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or have questions/interest in vaccinating and protecting yourself from Shingles please reach out to your healthcare provider.
Ashley Ruth, RN, is the Communicable Disease Nurse at Fayette County Public Health. If you would like to get a shingles vaccination or would like more information, please contact your healthcare provider or call Fayette County Health at 740-335-5910.