About Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

A shingle is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and fully clear up within 2 to 4 weeks. Before the rash appears, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where it will develop. This may happen several days before the rash appears.

Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. Shingles on the face can affect the eye and cause vision loss. In rare cases (usually in people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread on the body and look similar to a chickenpox rash.

Other symptoms of shingles can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Transmission

People get shingles when the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, reactivates in their bodies after they have already had chickenpox.

  • You cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles.
  • You can get chickenpox from someone who has shingles if you have never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine.

Complications of Shingles

The most common complication of shingles is long-term nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Other Complications

Shingles may lead to serious complications involving the eye, including blindness. Very rarely, it can also lead to:

  • Pneumonia,
  • Hearing problems,
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis), or death.

Treating Shingles

Several antiviral medicines—acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir—are available to treat shingles and shorten the length and severity of the illness. These medicines are most effective if you start taking them as soon as possible after the rash appears. If you think you have shingles, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment.

Pain medicine, either over-the-counter or with a prescription from your doctor, may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths (a lukewarm bath mixed with ground-up oatmeal) may help relieve itching.

Vaccination

CDC recommends two doses of recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) to prevent shingles and related complications in adults 50 years and older. Shingrix is also recommended for adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy.

Reference:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, February 3). Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/index.html