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Help — Do I Have Shingles and What Should I Do?

Help — Do I Have Shingles and What Should I Do?

Have you ever heard of shingles? Do you know much about it? Are you wondering what the symptoms are and how long you are contagious? Do you have a rash and you aren’t sure what type? Then, keep reading, and we will tell you all about it.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is a painful rash that is caused by a viral infection called the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox in children and adults. Once you have had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies inactive in your nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain area. Then, years later, the virus can materialize and reactivate this time as shingles, not chickenpox.

Shingles Symptoms

In the very beginning, you may experience symptoms such as fever, general weakness, pain, burning, or a tingling sensation. Then, in a  few days, the first sign of a rash will appear. This rash may be pink or red blotchy patches on one side of your body. The most common sites for shingles are the face, eye, and chest.

Your symptoms could also include hiccups or even loss of vision depending on where shingles virus develops in the body. Some people may only have mild symptoms with some itching. Unfortunately for other people, shingles can create intense pain.

Are You Contagious?

A person is contagious and can spread the virus as soon as the blisters start forming and up until all of the blisters have crusted over into a scab. The rash can heal in a 10 to 14 day period of time with some scarring.

The varicella-zoster virus spreads through direct contact with a person’s fluid from their rash blisters. Typically you will only experience one episode of shingles over your lifetime. However, people have reported getting the disease more than once.

How to Tests for the Virus?

Once you have a symptom, see your doctor to test your blood, cerebrospinal fluid, or saliva to identify if the presence of VZV antibodies exists. An antibody test would indicate that you have been exposed to varicella-zoster because your immune system makes proteins to fight the virus. Your doctor will look for these proteins, which are called antibodies. The doctor can confirm a diagnosis of shingles without a rash present. However, these tests can be inconclusive. Your doctor will review your medical history to provide clues that suggest you have shingles without a rash.

Another way of diagnosing shingles is a history of pain on one side of your body, together with the telltale rash and blisters. Your doctor may decide to take a culture or tissue scraping of the blisters for examination in the laboratory.

Mistaken Illness

Shingles can be confused with other skin conditions like hives eczema or psoriasis. Psoriasis presents red patches, and the shingles rash typically appears as small raised dots on your skin.

Stages of Shingles

There are three stages of this disease progression.

  1. Prodromal Phase

Symptoms present headaches, pain, malaise, and photophobia.

  1. Acute Phase

Symptoms are a rash, often accompanied with unbearable itching, pain, and allodynia (site pain in response to innocuous stimuli such as clothing or wind).

The rash typically lasts 7 to 10 days, with the majority of patients healing within four weeks.

  1. Neuralgia Phase

Not all patients experience this phase. It has complications such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and eye involvement (herpes zoster ophthalmicus).

Prevention

You can reduce the risk of developing shingles by getting a vaccine that your doctor can administer.

Give Hillandale Primary Care & Laser Center a call at 770-322-9660 if you think you have the shingles virus or if you want to get vaccinated.

Hillandale Primary Care & Laser Center is owned and operated by Dr. Saira Tariq Niaz, who is a board-certified family physician with offices in Lithonia and Lawrenceville, Georgia. Hillandale Primary Care provides patient-focused, compassionate healthcare of the highest quality to each patient and delivers acute and chronic healthcare to patients of all ages. We are passionate about preventive medicine and encourage each of our patients to take an active role in maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Call today at 770-322-9660 or request an appointment.