Shingles

Shingles is a rash that develops on one or many small areas of the skin, usually in older adults, caused by the varicella zoster virus. It is a common virus among seniors, with more than 1 million people developing the virus each year. Actually, 1 out of every 3 people will have the virus at some point during their lives. In case you are one out of those three people, we’re here to explain everything you need to know about the shingles virus.

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles presents itself in obvious ways, so identifying the virus is no difficult task. The most common symptoms of the shingles virus include:

  • Burning or itching skin
  • Feeling feverish
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Painful rash

As with any illness or virus, the symptoms of shingles range in severity and affect every individual differently. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s best to make a trip to your physician as soon as possible.

Causes of Shingles

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who's had chickenpox can develop shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus can enter your nervous system and lie dormant for years. Eventually, it can reactivate and travel along nerve pathways to your skin, producing shingles.

It can be triggered by a weakened immune system, which is why shingles is mostly commonly prevalent in seniors. As we get older, our immune systems get weaker, which could allow the virus to emerge.

Diagnoses of Shingles

Doctors usually can diagnose shingles simply by making a physical examination. Since the virus usually presents itself as a rash, it will be fairly easily for your doctor to identify. If your doctor is still unsure, they may take a sample of the rash or blister and run tests to confirm the diagnosis. They will also ask for your medical history, specifically if you’ve had chickenpox.  

Shingles Pain and Treatment

If you’ve developed shingles, you’re probably suffering from the pain of the skin rash. While there’s no cure for the virus, there are ways to limit the negative symptoms. Simple things like placing a cool washcloth over your rash, taking ibuprofen every four to six hours, wearing loose fitting clothing and not irritating the rash will lessen the pain of shingles symptoms. Other treatments like an oatmeal bath, lotions and other pain relievers can help as well.

Please seek the help of a physician if you believe you or a loved one has developed shingles. Most doctors will also offer preventative advice for keeping you healthy, happy and away from the shingles virus.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is shingles life threatening?

Generally speaking, no, shingles is not life threatening. However, for persons with especially weakened immune systems shingles can cause complications which can then become life threatening. If you have shingles, it is important to speak with your doctor immediately so that they can ensure that your overall health is not in danger.

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Is shingles contagious?

Yes and no. Shingles, itself, cannot be directly transferred from one person to another. However, shingles can be transferred to someone in the form of chickenpox. But, in order for this to happen, the affected person must make direct contact with the active blisters and must have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine in the past.

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