Help for Shingles Sufferers

Category Archives: Understanding Shingles

Should I worry about anything else if I get Shingles??

If you think you might have Shingles, you need to see your doctor.

Yes, there are some potential problems from Shingles infections.

The skin blisters can get infected with a specific bacteria.  The area will become very red, almost “hot” to the touch, and very sensitive.  It is possible to have red “streaks” around the blisters.  Again, if you experience this, contact your doctor.

If you experience Shingles in the ears, or face (forehead and nose), you should be on alert that it can affect your eyes.  Without treatment, it could lead to loss of vision (or hearing, if located on the ear nerves).  Once diagnosed, make sure to tell you doctor if any skin on your face is sensitive or you notice blisters on your neck near your ears.



What are the symptoms? How long does it last?

“I don’t see anything”

Just because you don’t see the rash yet, the pain of shingles may begin to affect you.  Several days to a week before any visible skin rashes form, you may feel a burning pain, or at a minimum, skin sensitive to the touch.  Most people don’t associate the burning pain with shingles because nothing is visible in the beginning. 

Shingles rash starts as small blisters on a red base, with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days. The blisters follow the path of individual nerves that come out of the spinal cord in a specific “ray-like” distribution (called a dermatomal pattern) and appear in a band-like pattern on an area of skin.

Eventually, the blisters pop, and the area starts to ooze. (YUCK)  The affected areas will then crust over and heal. The duration of the outbreak may take three to four weeks from start to finish. On occasion, the pain will be present but the blisters may not appear. This can be a very confusing cause of local pain.


How long is shingles contagious?

Shingles is contagious and can be spread from an affected person to babies, children, or adults who have not had chickenpox.  But instead of developing shingles, these people develop chickenpox. Once they have had chickenpox, people cannot catch shingles (or contract the virus) from someone else. Once infected, however, people have the potential to develop shingles later in life.

What is (are) Shingles?

What is it?  That is what I wanted to know as soon as I heard that I might be at risk and that I should meet with my doctor to talk about a vaccine. 

“Shingles?” I said.  What is that???  How could I get that?


 “an infection caused by a herpes virus (varicella-zoster virus), characterized by an eruption of groups of vesicles on one side of the body following the course of a nerve due to inflammation of ganglia and dorsal nerve roots resulting from activation of the virus, which in many instances has remained latent for years following a primary chickenpox infection; the condition is self-limited but may be accompanied by or followed by severe postherpetic pain.”

As usual, he was talking “Doctor-ISH” language and all I head was “blah-blah-herpes-blah-nerve-blah-virus-blah-pain”.  Hey Doc, tell it to me like you would tell your five year old child.

“Shingles is a painful skin rash”

Now I understand.  Then he told me more.  It is caused by the varicella zoster virus. Shingles usually appears in a band, a strip, or a small area on one side of the face or body. It is also called herpes zoster.

“So why am I at risk now in my life?”.  

“As you get older, two things often happen.  First, your immune system isn’t as strong for a multitude of reasons.  And second, the virus that caused “chicken pox” (varicella or “herpes” zoster virus) stays dormant (“inactive”) in your body until it decides to make itself active.  We don’t know why it does this, but it is usually later in life, in people of the age group 50 and above.”

“What a minute.  You said Herpes.  I have been monogamous for years!”

Herpes zoster is not caused by the same virus that causes genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease.  Even though the names are similar, “Shingles” has nothing to do with sexual contact or sexually transmitted infections.

” So — what now??”

“Since you don’t have it, you should get vaccinated.  If you had Shingles, then you would need to start medicines such as acyclovir, valcyclovir, and famciclovir as soon as possible.  You would also need some pain medications, and instructions on how to make the rashes less uncomfortable.”


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