Do you have shingles symptoms and are looking for shingles treatment? Shingles is a viral infection and has the potential to cause severe pain on one side of the body, along with blisters and a rash. While shingles can happen anywhere on your body, it’s most common to be found on the side of your torso.
If you’ve had chickenpox before, then you are at risk of getting shingles later in your life. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If chickenpox is a part of your medical history, then the same virus lies dormant as an inactive virus within the nerve tissue close to the brain and spinal cord. There is the potential that the virus may become active, not as chickenpox but as shingles.
Shingles isn’t known to be a condition that is threatening to your life, but it has the potential to be a severely painful condition to deal with. A shingles vaccine is an option that can help in reducing the risk of shingles and other early forms of shingles treatment have the potential to reduce complications and shorten individual shingles infections.
Many shingles symptoms are fairly obvious, particularly with the rash, blisters, and notable pain along the skin. Below are the most common and prominent symptoms of shingles that you can look for that typically only take place on one side of the body in small sections:
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Pain, numbness, tingling, and/or burning in varying intensities
- A red rash that appears shortly after experiencing the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters
- More itching than usual
- Increased sensitivity to light
- And more
Pain and the rash or blisters are usually the most telltale signs of shingles and they are often the first things people will notice and associate with shingles. Depending on the severity and location, shingles is commonly mistaken for issues associated to the kidneys, lungs, and/or heart. It’s also possible that those experiencing shingles will feel the pain but not develop a rash or blisters.
A common question we get is, “are shingles contagious?” Shingles can be contagious throughout certain stages and becomes less contagious as the virus progresses. Direct contact with fluids excreted from the rash blisters can spread shingles. As crusts develop on the rash, the person is no longer able to spread shingles.
Compared to chickenpox, shingles is less contagious and the risk of spreading shingles is lowered as long as the rash is covered. If you’re wondering, “is shingles contagious?” you can always contact your local doctor for shingles treatment and to ask any questions or address any concerns you have.
If there’s any uncertainty or you would like to get checked for shingles earlier rather than later (so that you can get earlier and more effective treatment), then you can contact us today at North County Health Services or reach out to any of our health centers.
Is Shingles Contagious?
The shingles virus, or varicella-zoster, is a complicated virus that makes the answer to, “Are shingles contagious?” quite complicated. The shingles virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox, so a person who contracts the virus may get chickenpox if they’ve never had them, may get shingles, or may not show any signs of the virus as it may lay dormant in their system for quite some time. Once you’ve had chickenpox, you have the shingles virus in your body and it is possible for it to present itself at any time. While chickenpox is very contagious, the singles virus is a little different. The virus itself is contagious, but it may present in another person as chickenpox rather than shingles. The shingles virus, which is the same as the chickenpox virus, spreads through direct contact with the fluid from the shingles rash, but before the blisters appear and after they have scabbed over, shingles is not considered to be contagious. With chickenpox, it’s nearly impossible to cover up the scabs since they are all over a person’s body. But the shingles virus tends to show up in rash form in just one or a few areas of the body, so it can be covered more easily, leading to a lower risk of spreading it to others.
Risk Factors for Shingles Virus
While anyone can experience the shingles virus and associated shingles symptoms, there are a few risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of an individual contracting the virus and needing shingles treatment. If you have had chickenpox in the past, the shingles virus is already present in your body, meaning that it can reactivate at any time and present with shingles symptoms. Generally speaking, the most common individuals to get shingles and need shingles treatment are those with a compromised or weakened immune system. Those who have cancer and HIV are most prone to needing shingles treatment, especially if they are currently undergoing active treatment for those diseases. Individuals older than 50 are more likely than young people to get shingles, and in those over 80, the risk increases even more. Certain medications can make a person more at risk of developing shingles symptoms, specifically steroid-based medicines and those that organ transplant recipients take. Having a physical trauma or a significant amount of stress in your life can also increase your risk of getting shingles. Doing whatever you can to improve your immune system can help you avoid getting the shingles virus and subsequent shingles symptoms, whether you have the virus in your body already or not. Getting a shingles vaccine is also thought to help minimize the likelihood of contracting the disease and needing appropriate shingles treatment.
Treatment for Shingles
Varicella-zoster (shingles) cannot be cured, like most herpes viruses, however, shingles treatment is entirely possible. The effectiveness of shingles treatment depends a great deal on how early shingles symptoms are detected. If you think that you may be at risk of the shingles virus, it’s worth meeting with a doctor to get checked out so that you can begin treatment as soon as possible.
Vaccinations for shingles is one of the earliest possible steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood of getting shingles. There are a couple of different vaccination options available that may be more or less effective based on your age and other variables.
Although you can’t cure shingles directly, there are other prescription antiviral drugs that can help improve the healing process and reduce the effectiveness of other undesired complications of shingles.
Depending on the severity of your shingles case, the virus can last on average between two to six weeks and usually only occurs once. But in some rare cases, it’s possible to get shingles (and all of the symptoms) two or more times.
If you’re currently experiencing the pain and rash or blisters of shingles, there are a few home remedies you can try to help reduce or cope with the pain until you can see a doctor. For starters, putting a cool wet compress on the blisters or taking a cool bath can help in providing relief for itching and pain. Reducing the amount of stress you’re putting on yourself or in your life can also help to reduce the severity of the symptoms of shingles.
Contact us today at North County Health Services to learn more about shingles, to learn more about what to expect, find treatment for shingles, and more. NCHS QuickCare offers fast healthcare for shingles at our walk-in clinic locations.