Shingles is a painful and potentially debilitating rash that can affect people who had the chickenpox at some point in their lives, notes Infectious Disease Doctor Gary Simon, MD. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people age 60 and older get vaccinated to help lower their risk of getting shingles. Even if you don’t remember whether you had chickenpox, the CDC recommends that you be vaccinated. Dr. Simon explains more about this condition.
What Causes Shingles?
The same virus that caused you to get chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus, lies dormant in your body and can reactivate and cause shingles years later. Not everyone who had chickenpox will get shingles. Certain people are more at risk, including people who are older or have weakened immune systems, and people taking certain medications.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
One of the first things you might notice is a tingly, itchy or painful feeling in the part of your body where the shingles rash will develop. This may occur one to five days before you see the rash. Usually the rash appears around one side of your torso, but it can appear on any part of your body, including your face. Other symptoms may include fever, headache, chills or an upset stomach.
Is Shingles Contagious?
You can’t pass shingles to another person; but you could potentially pass the varicella zoster virus to someone who is not immune to chickenpox, and that person could develop chickenpox. The virus can be spread through contact with the open sores of a shingles rash, so it’s important to keep your rash covered while it is blistering. Shingles typically gets better after about two to four weeks.
Could Shingles Affect My Health Long-Term?
Some people may continue to experience severe pain in the areas where the rash occurred. Rashes around the eye could cause infections that may result in vision loss. Other complications may include skin infections and neurological problems. Call your doctor right away if you think you may have shingles. Early treatment can help you avoid complications and recover more quickly.
Find a Doctor for Immunizations
Remember to talk with your doctor about the shingles vaccine. To find a doctor, call our free Physician Referral Line at 1-888-4GW-DOCS.