Shingles is an infection that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Varicella-zoster virus infects the nerve tissues and the surrounding skin.
The painful rash has fluid-filled blisters over a reddish skin. The rash appears only one side of the body, usually the left or right side of the torso.
However, the rash can also appear anywhere on the body.
If you had chickenpox at any stage of life, the virus remains inactive within the body for the rest of your life.
It gets reactivated if you have a weak immune system, especially after the age of 60.
Read on this article to learn everything you need to know about shingles and its symptoms.
Table of Contents
Causes Of Shingles
It has been found that one in four people will suffer from shingles at least once in their life.
People who had chickenpox at some point in their life are at risk of getting shingles.
After chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains inactive within the body and even decades after.
If your immune system weakens, the virus moves from the nerve pathways to the skin, causing shingles.
Some people who are vaccinated against chickenpox can develop shingles.
If you are vaccinated against chickenpox, the infection is less severe. It is not necessary that you would get shingles if you had chickenpox.
Contagiousness Of Shingles
Generally, shingles are not contagious.
It means that if you had chickenpox before or you are vaccinated against chickenpox, you will not catch shingles around a patient having this infection.
If a person never had chickenpox and is not vaccinated against the disease, they are at risk of contracting chickenpox from a patient suffering from shingles.
However, they may develop shingles later on in life, if the virus reactivates in their body.
The contraction of the virus in these people can only occur if they get in direct contact with an open blister of the shingles rash or with fluid from the blisters.
Symptoms Of Shingles
If you are wondering how to know you have shingles, there are some early signs of shingles even before a painful rash appears on the body.
The early signs of shingles reported by some patients are:
- Fatigue and symptoms of a cold
- Fever and headaches
- Upset bowel
- Tingling, itching, burning or numbness where the rash will appear later
Other major symptoms of shingles include:
The first major symptom of shingles is developing sensitivity to touch or pain in a wide area of the body where the rash will appear.
The area may burn, itch, tingle or throb because of the pain.
The pain will usually be accompanied by cold-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and chills.
Appearance Of A Rash
Usually, a few days after the pain, the area of the pain develops a rash with red fluid-filled blisters.
Since the infection affects the nerves, the pain aggravates with the appearance of the rash, causing intense, shooting pain.
The rash usually appears on only one side of the body in a single patch and rarely occurs in other parts of the body simultaneously.
The blisters remain pus-filled for about 10-12 days, and after that, scabs are formed.
Crusting Of The Skin
In the following 15 days, the rash gradually disappears, leaving a crusty surface.
This crusty surface later forms a scar, which goes away with time.
Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
Postherpetic neuralgia is a nervous system problem that occurs due to shingles.
In this, the pain at the place of the rash remains even after the rash disappears.
It has been found that around 15% of patients who suffer from shingles also suffer from post-herpetic neuralgia.
However, it is more common in old patients.
When Should I Consult A Doctor?
It is important to consult a doctor as soon as you suspect that you have shingles.
Especially if you have developed a rash on one side of the body, you should immediately seek medical help.
However, the following conditions related to shingles require an urgent medical checkup:
Rash Near the Eye
You must immediately seek a doctor if you have developed a rash on the nose or near your eye.
The rash caused by shingles near the eye can cause the virus to spread further, resulting in eye damage or loss of vision.
Unusual Symptoms of Shingles
The patient must seek immediate medical help if they develop any of the following unusual symptoms of shingles:
- Very high fever
- Memory loss and confusion
- Unbearable headaches
- Blisters that keep spreading to other parts of the body
- Rash that is affecting the eye
Shingles are very uncommon in pregnant women; however, if it occurs, it has little or no effect on the fetus.
If pregnant women suffer from shingles, they need immediate medical treatment to avoid any complications.
Moreover, pregnant women who never had chickenpox should stay away from chickenpox or shingles patients.
Chickenpox in pregnant women poses a risk to the fetus.
Adults Over 60 Years of Age
People over 60 years of age tend to have weaker immunity, which poses a greater risk of developing shingles.
They should be vaccinated against shingles as a precautionary measure and should get immediate medical help if they develop shingles.
There are two types of vaccinations to prevent the infection of shingles— the chickenpox vaccine and the shingles vaccine.
The vaccination is done as a precautionary measure and cannot fight the infection if you have already developed shingles.
With this guide on early and obvious symptoms of shingles, you will not have to worry about how to know you have shingles.
Keep in mind that this website does not provide medical advice, if you believe you have shingles, consult a doctor immediately.
I am the founder of DestroyNailFungus, and I do my best to provide comprehensive guides on health and wellness.
When I’m not running the site, I enjoy spending time outdoors and drinking coffee.