Also called: Herpes zoster, Postherpetic neuralgia

Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. It may not cause problems for many years. As you get older, the virus may reappear as shingles. Although it is most common in people over age 50, anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk.

You can't catch shingles from someone who has it. However, if you have a shingles rash, you can pass the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox. This would usually be a child, who could get chickenpox instead of shingles. The virus spreads through direct contact with the rash, and cannot spread through the air.

Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. The pain can be mild to severe. Rashes or blisters appear anywhere from one to 14 days later. If shingles appears on your face, it may affect your vision or hearing. The pain of shingles may last for weeks, months, or even years after the blisters have healed.

There is no cure for shingles. Early treatment with medicines that fight the virus may help. These medicines may also help prevent lingering pain.

A vaccine may prevent shingles or lessen its effects. The vaccine is recommended for people 60 or over. In some cases doctors may give it to people ages 50 to 59.

NIH: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Symptoms of Shingles

The following features are indicative of Shingles:
  • painful rash
  • fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
  • itching
  • fever
  • headache
  • sensitivity to light
  • fatigue
It is possible that Shingles shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Shingles

The following are the most common causes of Shingles:
  • varicella-zoster virus
  • lowered immunity to infections

Risk Factors for Shingles

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Shingles:
  • older adults
  • weakened immune system
  • exposure to radiation
  • chemotherapy

Prevention of Shingles

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Shingles. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • get vaccinated against shingles
  • get vaccinated against chickenpox

Occurrence of Shingles

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Shingles cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Shingles can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Shingles can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Shingles

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Shingles:
  • Tissue scraping: To diagnose the infection in the skin
  • Blood tests: To measure the amount of increase in white blood cells and antibodies to the chickenpox virus
  • Physical exam: To diagnose shingles by looking at your skin

Doctor for Diagnosis of Shingles

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Shingles:
  • Dermatologist

Complications of Shingles if untreated

Yes, Shingles causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Shingles is left untreated:
  • permanent eye damage
  • postherpetic neuralgia
  • neurological problems
  • skin infections

Self-care for Shingles

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Shingles:
  • Taking a cool bath: Provides relief from itching and pain

Alternative Medicine for Treatment of Shingles

The following alternate medicine and therapies are known to help in the treatment or management of Shingles:
  • Apply cool and wet compresses: Helps in relieving the pain

Time for Treatment of Shingles

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Shingles to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 3 months

Is Shingles Infectious?

Yes, Shingles is known to be infectious. It can spread across people via the following means:
  • direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash

Related Topics

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 5/04/2020.
This page provides information for Shingles.

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