Shingles is a painful belt-like patterned rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Shingles is more common in adults over age 50 and in people who are immunocompromised.
- Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) requires two doses administered two to six months apart
- The two-dose vaccine is preferred because it is more effective
- Side effects of Shingrix include:
- People may have a worse reaction to the first or second dose of Shingrix, or may have side effects from both doses
- Two doses of Shingrix shingles vaccine are more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and postherpetic neuralgia
- Protection from the Shingrix shingles vaccine stays above 85% for at least four years after vaccination
- Side effects of Zostavax include:
- Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) shingles vaccine is available in a single dose
- Protection from the Zostavax (zoster vaccine live) shingles vaccine lasts about 5 years
- Zostavax reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51% and postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles, by 67%
What Are Symptoms of Shingles?
Early symptoms of shingles include:
- Abnormal sensations such as tingling, itching, or burning on part of the skin on one side of the body
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
After one to two days, symptoms of shingles include:
- A rash of blisters in a band-like pattern on one side of the body
- Commonly occurs on the trunk (chest, abdomen, and back) but can develop on almost any part of the body
- After three to four days, blisters become open sores (ulcers)
- After 7 to 10 days, the sores crust over and are no longer contagious (in people with healthy immune systems)
- A rash near the eye that can permanently affect vision if not treated
- Often starts days before the rash develops
- May range from mild to severe
- May have a stabbing, sharp, or burning feeling
- Only affects the parts of the skin where the rash occurs, but it can be severe and interfere with daily activities and sleep
- Is often worse in older adults than in younger people
Skin color changes and scarring may occur after shingles has gone away.
What Causes Shingles?
Once a person has had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body and may be reactivated later in life, causing shingles.
Shingles itself is not transmitted from person-to-person, however, a person who never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get chickenpox from a person who has shingles.
How Is Shingles Diagnosed?
Shingles is usually diagnosed with a physical examination and patient history.
What Is the Treatment for Shingles?
Treatment of shingles usually involves a combination of medications.
- Antiviral medications
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics, if the rash becomes infected
- Home remedies to help relieve itching
- Wet compresses
- Calamine lotion
- Colloidal oatmeal baths
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