Shingles is a viral infection that is caused by the Varicella-Zoster virus. This virus is the same one that causes chickenpox. Shingles outbreaks occur when the virus reactivates in the body, often years after someone has had chickenpox.
What does a Shingles Rash look like?
When the rash starts, you may notice pink or red blotchy patches on one side of your body. These patches cluster along nerve pathways.
A Shingles rash can appear as a single stripe of blisters that wrap around the left or right side of the body. In some cases, the rash occurs on both sides of the body.
The rash usually starts as red blotches and turns into itchy blisters. Some people report feeling shooting pain in the area of inflammation. During this initial stage, shingles is not contagious.
For How Long is Shingles Infectious?
The shingles rash usually lasts between two and four weeks. However, the virus can remain active in the body for years. For this reason, people with shingles are infectious until all of their blisters have crusted over.
It is essential to be aware of how long shingles are infectious, as it is vital to avoid contact with anyone who may be susceptible to the virus. This includes pregnant women, newborns, and anyone who has never had chickenpox or received the shingles vaccine.
While most people who get shingles will recover without any long-term problems, there are cases where the virus can be incredibly severe and can cause many adverse effects, such as blindness, paralysis, and even death. For this reason, it is essential to seek medical attention if you think you may have shingles.
Symptoms of Shingles Infection
Not sure what symptoms you should look out for?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please see a doctor as soon as possible:
- A blistery looking rash
- Pain, burning, or tingling sensation on the skin
Can I cure Shingles?
Shingles cannot be cured, but there are treatments available that can help to shorten the duration of the virus and make the symptoms more bearable.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, please see a doctor as soon as possible.
Some quick-fix treatments to relieve these symptoms include:
- Taking ibuprofen or paracetamol to reduce pain and fever
- Putting cool, damp compress on the rash
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Getting rest
- Applying ointments or creams to soothe itchy skin
Importance of Seeking Medical Help
While most people who get shingles will recover without any long-term problems, there are cases where the virus can be incredibly severe and can cause many adverse effects. Some of these include:
- Lasting Visual Impairment
One of the most common complications from shingles is keratitis, which can affect the cornea. The cornea is the curved, transparent dome of tissue at the front of the eye. Keratitis occurs when the virus affects eye tissue, usually from Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus (HZO) complications. The forehead is affected first, followed by other areas, including the scalp.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), 300,000 to 500,000 individuals are affected by shingles each year. Of these herpes zoster cases, approximately 25% are HZO.
- Facial Paralysis
Ramsay Hunt syndrome, also known as Herpes Zoster Oticus, occurs when the virus affects the facial nerve near one of your ears. On top of the pain it would cause, it could lead to facial paralysis and even hearing loss in one ear.
For this reason, it is essential to seek medical attention if you think you suspect you may have shingles.