The same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster virus (VZV), also causes shingles. The chickenpox virus remains latent (inactive) in the body even after a person heals. Later reactivation of the virus can result in shingles.
The vast majority of individuals who have shingles only experience one outbreak in their lifetime. Nevertheless, shingles can occur more than once.
If you have shingles, persons who have never had chickenpox or who have never had the chickenpox vaccine can contract VZV through direct contact with the pus from your rash blisters. If they contract the infection, they will get chickenpox rather than shingles. Later in adulthood, they could have shingles.
If you cover the shingles rash, the danger of transferring VZV to others is minimal. Before or after their rash crusts, shingles patients are unable to transmit the virus. People who have shingles are less likely to transfer VZV than people who have chickenpox.
What Triggers a Shingles Outbreak?
The chickenpox virus is inactive in your body if you had it as a child. A robust immune system often controls the VZV. But it’s when your immune system is weakened or damaged that the VZV reactivates and causes shingles.
While shingles are not contagious, they can transmit to someone who hasn’t had the VZV and cause chickenpox. Avoid individuals who have shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox, and if you have shingles, stay away from anyone with a weakened immune system or who hasn’t had chickenpox.
The main risk factor for developing shingles is a compromised immune system. VZV can reactivate if your immune system isn’t working properly.
Your immune system becomes less effective as you become older in repelling invaders. Older age is linked to a higher probability of health issues, such as:
- An average lowering of immunity.
- chemotherapy, long-term corticosteroids, and anti-inflammatory drugs are examples of immunosuppressive medications.
- Several illnesses and ailments, including HIV and hypogammaglobulinemia, might impair your immune system.
- Immunosuppressive medications are used to treat autoimmune disorders like lupus, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- procedures including kidney and bone marrow transplants, which may need post-op immunosuppressive drug therapy.
- Your likelihood of developing shingles increases starting at about age 50. With age, both the disease’s severity and the chance of complications rise.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that stress can harm your immune system. There has been considerable curiosity regarding the possibility that adverse life events could compromise the immune system and cause shingles.
Is Shingles Contagious By Touch or Airborne?
Yes, Shingles are contagious by torch and airborne. To get shingles, a person needs to have had chickenpox in the past. One cannot catch shingles from someone who already has them. Nevertheless, a person with active shingles can transmit the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles to someone who has never had chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccination.
Instead of shingles, chickenpox would appear on the person who was exposed to the virus. When the rash is in the blister stage, a person with shingles might pass the virus to others. There are viral particles in the blister fluid.
Direct contact with the rash or inhaling airborne virus particles are the two main ways the virus is disseminated. The person is no longer infectious once the rash has formed crusts. Before blisters form or if there is still pain after the rash has disappeared, a person is not contagious.
Do Patients With Shingles Need To Be Isolated?
Whether a herpes zoster patient is immunocompetent or immunocompromised, as well as whether the rash is localized or widespread, affects the infection-control strategies.
Precautions For Individuals With a Localized Rash
- If the patient has a localized rash and is immunocompetent, use the usual precautions and cover all areas until they are dry and crusted.
- If a patient has immunosuppression and a localized rash, use normal measures in addition to airborne and contact precautions until the possibility of a spread infection is eliminated. When spreading is ruled out, use the usual measures and cover all lesions until they crust over.
- Patients with zoster should only be attended to by healthcare professionals who can provide sufficient proof of varicella
Precautions For Individuals With Disseminated or Generalized Rash
- Whether the patient is immunocompetent or immunocompromised, if the rash is disseminated (lesions outside the original or nearby dermatomes), take normal measures in addition to airborne and contact precautions until the lesions are crusted.
- Put the patient in a room with negative air pressure. If this is not possible, place patients in their rooms and keep the door locked. You shouldn’t enter the room if you have varicella.
- Patients with zoster should only be attended to by medical personnel who are sufficiently immune to varicella.
How Long Is Shingles Contagious For?
The condition known as shingles is contagious, much like chickenpox. But first, we need to talk about how shingles transmit, which may amaze you before we discuss how long you might be contagious.
Shingles are contagious, but they can only transmit to persons who haven’t had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, or to those who haven’t yet had chickenpox. In these circumstances, the shingles virus is frequently transferred through close contact with the ruptured blisters on your rash. However, once infected, a person has chickenpox rather than shingles.
The first symptoms of shingles are typically tingling, burning, or numbness in the skin, generally on one side of the body. After a few days, groups of tiny, fluid-filled blisters start to form, occasionally with reddish skin surrounding them. The blisters begin to dry out after 7–10 days, and the symptoms normally go away in 2-4 weeks.
What Is The Treatment For Shingles?
By examining the outbreak on your skin, a dermatologist can frequently determine if you have shingles. Your dermatologist will scrape a small amount of fluid from a blister if there is any doubt regarding whether you have shingles. This will be taken to a lab where a medical professional will examine the fluid with a powerful microscope.
The virus that causes shingles is present in the fluid when you have shingles. You can tell you have shingles if you can see the virus. Inquiries concerning your symptoms will also be made by your dermatologist. Shingles frequently cause pain.
Although there is no known treatment for shingles, antiviral medication may help to ease the symptoms and limit complications. As soon as symptoms appear, make an appointment with your doctor to request a prescription for antiviral medication. Three days after the shingles rash appears, treatment should begin.
Consult your doctor if you are pregnant to determine whether antivirals are appropriate for you. Pain treatment can be achieved by using over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Your doctor might recommend different medications if over-the-counter pain relievers aren’t working to reduce your discomfort.
You can take several actions to aid in managing the disease. These are a few of them.
- Keep the rash as dry and clean as you can.
- If at all possible, cover the rash to prevent the virus from spreading. Make use of a nonstick solution. Avoid applying antibiotic creams or bandages to the blisters because doing so could delay the healing process.
- Avoid scratching the rash. Blisters that have been scratched may become infected and leave scars.
- Use a fresh towel to gently wipe yourself dry after taking a bath or shower. Do not rub or scratch yourself with the towel, and do not exchange towels.
- Wear loose cotton clothing all over the affected body
- Ice packs, baths, or cool compresses may provide relief from the soreness. Applying ice to the skin directly is not advised. Place the ice pack carefully over the dressing after wrapping it in a thin cloth. After use, wash the towel in hot water.
- Applying creams or gels is not advised if the blisters are open since they could raise the risk of a secondary bacterial infection.
- Avoid interacting with those who may be more vulnerable, such as infants under one-month-old, pregnant women who are not immune to chickenpox, and those with weakened immune systems.
- Don’t go swimming, play sports with contact, or share towels. Regularly wash your hands.
Vaccine for Shingles
Zostavax and Shingrix are two vaccines that can lessen the risk of getting shingles. You can discuss whether you require it with your doctor if you are over 50.
Although vaccination won’t prevent you from getting shingles, it will lower your risk of doing so. The vaccine used to protect against shingles and the vaccine used to protect against chickenpox are not the same.
Typically, shingles only occur once in a person’s lifetime. The blisters don’t leave any scars and the discomfort and rash go away in 3 to 5 weeks. There are some potential difficulties.
Herpes zoster ophthalmicus, an eye disorder, can potentially result from shingles (HZO). Small blisters may appear on the forehead and in the area surrounding the eyes as a result of HZO exposure. This usually just affects one side of your face.
Occasionally, a few days before the outbreak, you will have pain in the same location of your face. Extremely painful eye infections often result in eyelid swelling, light sensitivity, and redness. The cornea may sustain damage in serious circumstances. This might impair your vision.
A doctor should be seen straight away by anyone who has Shingles.