Shingles: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Prevention & Treatments

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Shingles are also known as herpes zoster. It is a viral infection that can occur anywhere on the body. Due to shingles, most of the people have the blistering rash on the left or the right side of their torso. Shingles can cause acute pain to the sufferers. It is not a life-threatening problem and can be cured with the vaccines. Do you know which virus causes shingles on your body? It is the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus which causes chickenpox. After a person has had Chickenpox, the virus becomes inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. After years, this virus may get activated again which is known as shingles. One should get the treatment as early as possible in order to avoid the complications that can arise due to shingles. Tingling and localised pain are the early signs that help you to understand that you may be suffering from shingles. The others symptoms of herpes zoster are itching, burning or deep pain. It is easy to diagnose the shingles. One can easily recognise the rashes which occur due to shingles. herpes zoster can occur on the body for the duration of 2 weeks – 4 weeks. Generally, shingles happen once in a lifetime. There is a possibility that shingles can happen two or more times. People easily get the complete recovery in case of shingles viral infection.


Check out the various symptoms of shingles:

– Early symptoms: Tingling, burning and localised pain are the early signs or symptoms of shingles. As soon as you experience these symptoms, you should immediately reach out to the doctors. If herpes zoster are not treated properly on time then it can create complications. After some days, the signs of a rash appear. Pink or red spotted patches are generally noticed on the one side of the body. Around the nerve pathways, these patches are clustered. You may feel the sharp shooting pain in the area where the rash is. In this early stage, this viral infection is not contagious so it is better to get it treated as early as possible.

– Blisters: With time, the rash develops to blisters filled with fluid. These blisters are very similar to chickenpox. Blisters will cause itching on the affected areas. In the several days, the new blisters appear on the body. In several days, new blisters appear on the body. Blisters do not spread over the whole body but appear over a localised area. They generally appear on the torso or face but can appear anywhere on the body. Blisters may also appear on the lower body but this is very rare.

– Crusting and scabbing: Sometimes blisters can turn into slightly yellowish colour and begin to flatten. As soon as they dry, scabs start to appear. Blisters generally take around 1 week – 2 weeks to form into a hard outer layer. In this stage, the pain is less than before. But the pain can continue for months or even years sometimes. Once all the blisters are turned into a hard outer layer or become crusted, the risk of spreading the virus is low.

– Shingle’s belt: Shingle’s belt is also known as a shingles band or a shingles girdle. Mostly, it is found that shingles appear around the waist or rib cage which may look like a full or half belt of shingles. The belt can spread over a wide area on a side of your midsection. Due to shingles belt, you feel uncomfortable in the tight clothes.

– Other symptoms: The other symptoms of shingles that people may experience are fever, headache sensitivity to light, fatigue and more.


Check out the causes of shingles:

–  Varicella-zoster virus is a virus that causes you a viral infection of herpes zoster. This virus is also responsible for causing chickenpox.

–  The varicella-zoster virus gets reactivated and causes shingles.

–  Those who had chickenpox in the earlier days can get attacked by this infection. Those who have already received varicella vaccine can rarely get attacked by shingles in the later days.

–  After the episode of chickenpox, the virus becomes inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. After years, this virus can get reactivated which causes you herpes zoster.

–  The reason for getting attacked by shingles is still not clear. It may happen due to the immunity to infections that become low as we grow with time.

–  Herpes zoster are more prone to the older adults and to the people who have a weak immune system.

How is it diagnosed?

Doctors can easily diagnose the shingles with the help of the appearance of a rash on your body. Painful blisters are the symptoms of shingles. As soon as you experience the early symptoms of shingles including tingling, burning and localised pain; you should reach out to the doctors for the checkup. For the purpose of examination in the laboratory, doctors will take a tissue scraping or culture of the blisters. It can be a challenge to recognise or diagnose shingles before the appearance of a rash or blisters. Diagnosing herpes zoster without a rash (also called zoster sine herpete) is not easy. In such cases, diagnosis is done with the help of laboratory tests which help in confirming whether a person is suffering from shingles. As per the clinical situation, the testing can be done either by the blood work or by specialised testing of skin lesion samples. Shingles are generally diagnosed by the physicians or emergency medicine physicians. If people face any complications of herpes zoster then they should immediately reach out to the specialists in neurology, ophthalmology or as per the requirement.


–  Vaccines can help you to get the prevention from the signs or symptoms of shingles.

–  In order to prevent your children from the shingles, you should give them two doses of the chickenpox vaccine which is also called as varicella immunization.

–  Adults should also get this vaccine in order to seek the prevention from shingles. Taking this vaccine does not necessarily mean that you will not suffer from chickenpox. But, as per the facts, this vaccine prevents chickenpox in 9 out of 10 people.

–  Adults who are in the age group of 60 or above should get the vaccine of herpes zoster which is known as varicella-zoster immunization.

–  Shingle is a contagious disease. So, in order to prevent the infection from spreading to others, you should follow certain things:

–  You should properly cover your rash.

–  You should avoid contact with those people who have not suffered from chickenpox ever or those who have a weak immune system.

–  You should wash your hands frequently.


What is the best treatment available for the shingles? Here you go:

–  As of now, there is no cure for the shingles. But proper treatment can help to minimize the various effects of this viral infection, herpes zoster.

–  As soon as you experience the early symptoms, make sure to reach out to the best doctors. Your doctor will suggest you the best medication as per your requirement.

–  Many cases of herpes zoster can be easily managed at home. But if you are facing severe symptoms or complications of shingles or have impaired immune system then you may have to take admission to the hospital for the proper treatment.

–  Antiviral drugs are used to fight against the varicella-zoster virus. These medicines are more effective if taken within 72 hours of the physical appearance of a rash. However, in some selected case it can be started after 72 hours like in the case of an immunocompromised person.

Check out some of the antiviral medications that are helpful in fighting against the varicella-zoster virus:

–  Acyclovir (Zovirax)

–  Famciclovir (Famvir)

–  Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

Due to shingles, you can feel severe pain. So your doctor may advise you following:

–  Capsaicin topical patch (Qutenza) used for the management of neuropathic pain.

–  Anticonvulsants such as gabapentin (Neurontin) used to treat the nerve pain caused by shingles.

–  Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline also used to treat the nerve pain.

–  Numbing agents such as lidocaine which is delivered via a cream, gel, spray or skin patch. Lidocaine is used to reduce pain or discomfort caused by shingles.

–  Medications that have narcotics, such as codeine. One should not take it regularly as it can lead to dependency.

–  An injection including corticosteroids and local anaesthetics.


It is easy to get the recovery in case of shingles. But still, there are some complications associated with shingles that may occur:

– Postherpetic neuralgia: Due to postherpetic neuralgia, a person feels persistent pain and discomfort in the affected areas. This is one of the most common complications associated with shingles. In this, the pain continues for months or sometimes for even years after the rash has gone. This pain is so severe that sometimes it can lead to disability and depression. This complication rarely occurs in the people below the 40 years of age. Postherpetic neuralgia can easily develop in people of 60 years or above with herpes zoster. There are various treatment options available for those who suffer from the complication of postherpetic neuralgia. The treatment options include capsaicin (Zostrix), tricyclic antidepressant medications, antiseizure medications such as gabapentin (Neurontin), pregabalin (Lyrica), topical anaesthetic lidocaine patches (Lidoderm), and opioid pain medications. Intrathecal glucocorticoid injections are also given to the patients suffering from postherpetic neuralgia if they do not respond to other medications.

– Ramsay Hunt syndrome: This complication occurs when shingles affect the nerves of the face. Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can lead to paralysis of the facial muscle, can affect the ear and the ear canal and can also affect the mouth but this happens rarely. The various symptoms of this complication are a pain in the ear, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, and dizziness. Most of the people recover from the treatment. Though, some can suffer from the permanent facial weakness and/or hearing loss.

– Herpes zoster ophthalmicus: Another complication of Shingles is herpes zoster ophthalmicus. It can sometimes affect the eye and in some cases can also lead to blindness. If an individual has a rash around the eye, nose or forehead then the individual should get the eye evaluation done by the doctor. Early treatment helps to get the cure at the earliest.


Some of the myths that are related to shingles:

Myth #1: Only elder people face the problem of shingles.

It is true that those people who are of 60 years or above are more prone to shingles. But it does not mean that anyone else can not suffer from shingles. If your immune system is weak then there are high chances of you getting attacked by herpes zoster.

Myth #2: Shingles is contagious.

Shingles are not caused by the others. Varicella-zoster virus is the virus that can cause you shingles. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus becomes inactive after a person had chickenpox. But, this virus can get reactivated anytime and cause you herpes zoster.

Myth #3: If you did not suffer from chickenpox in the past then you cannot get shingles.

Shingles are caused by a virus known as a varicella-zoster virus. If you have the vaccine for chickenpox i.e. varicella vaccine then also you can suffer from herpes zoster.


Shingle is a viral infection that can occur anywhere on the body. Itching, localised pain, blisters, rash, burning and more are some of the symptoms of herpes zoster. As soon as you discover the symptoms of shingles, you should reach to the best doctor for the diagnosis. A doctor can easily diagnose this infection because of the physical appearance of a rash. There are various treatment options available that will help you to fight against shingles viral infection. If not treated on time then shingles can lead to some serious complications.


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