Shingles is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, the virus that caused it is still in your body. When the chickenpox cleared, the virus moved from your skin to your nerves. Should this virus travel back to your skin, you will get shingles instead of chickenpox. More than 1 million cases of shingles are diagnosed every year in the United States alone.

What are the symptoms?

Early symptoms may include very common issues like headache, light sensitivity, malaise, and maybe a fever. In addition, you may start to notice some abnormal skin sensations and varying pain in one area. Shingles will only affect one side of the body and one local area. Typically, the rash will erupt in a single stripe. It will appear blistering in spots and can appear to expand. The pain level can vary from aching to an electrical sensation and even severe stabbing pain. The rash can last from 7 to 10 days and completely heal within 2 to 4 weeks.

If shingles will go away on their own, why see a doctor?

Shingles can have lingering effects without treatment. However, starting a prescription medication within 2 to 3 days of developing the rash can dramatically reduce your symptoms and the effects. Prolonged lasting pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, is shingles’ most common side effect. Still, you can also develop pneumonia, hearing loss, and a disease called encephalitis, swelling in the brain. In addition, if you develop shingles on your face, it can spread to the eyes and affect your eyesight.

Is shingles contagious?

You cannot spread shingles to anyone. However, while you have the shingles blisters, you are contagious to spread the virus as chickenpox to anyone who has not had chickenpox. Therefore, it is essential to keep your rash covered and stay away from pregnant women, babies, anyone who is immune-compromised or sick, and anyone who has not had chickenpox.

If you suspect that you have shingles, call our office right away to schedule an appointment. Prompt treatment can help shorten the infection and lessen the chance of complications.