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What Is Shingles and How Do You Get It

Perhaps, you recently heard about Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda with shingles. According to an article, his condition is so serious that he must be quarantined from his baby. This information leaves many of us wondering: what is shingles? How do you get it? Is it contagious? Can it cause any serious long-term health effects? This article will help you answer all of these questions.

What is shingles? How do you get it?

Shingles is a viral infection that mostly occurs in those who have had chickenpox. According to the doctors, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus or VZV. This virus is a member of the herpes simplex virus family. It can also be responsible for chickenpox which is especially common among children.

When you contract VZV, you will get the first health problem, called chickenpox. Then, this virus will travel to the nerve tissues of your body and remain hidden. The cause of this problem is still unknown. But for years later, the virus can wake up and erupt onto your skin as shingles.

Common signs and symptoms of shingles include:

  • Red skin patches;
  • Pain and burning over the skin;
  • Tingling or itching in/under the skin;
  • Tiny fluid-filled blisters;
  • Fever;
  • Headaches;
  • Fatigue;
  • Muscle weakness.

Shingles usually develops on just one side of your body. Commonly affected parts are the back, chest, face and different skin areas in your body.

Related: The Difference between Herpes and Shingles

symptoms of shingles

Shingles rash

Who can get shingles?

Anyone who has had chickenpox can have chances of catching shingles. Here are the most common risk factors:

  • Be 50 or older;
  • Have had chickenpox;
  • Be under high stress;
  • Have weakened immune system;
  • Have had physical injuries;
  • Have had another infection or disease, such as HIV or cancer;
  • Take certain drugs, such as steroids;
  • Have had chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

If you think you are more at risk of shingles, talk to a pharmacist or doctor.

Related: Things You Should Know About Shingles

People who have had chickenpox can have chances of getting shingles

Shingles patient

Is shingles contagious?

Shingles is contagious. You can spread the virus to people who have not had chickenpox in the past. People who haven’t been vaccinated can also get it if contacting with an affected person. Shingles is extremely contagious when the sores or blisters crust over. During that time, the sufferers need to avoid having close contact with:

  • Newborns;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People with weak immune system.

Shingles is considered much less contagious when the sores or blisters scab over. Usually, the healing process can take from 7 to 10 days.

When the sores crust over, shingles becomes contagious

Shingles is contagious

Can shingles cause any serious complications?

It’s estimated that 1 out of 10 people with shingles might experience complications. These complications may include:

  • Continued pain. In medicine, it’s usually called postherpetic neuralgia.
  • Skin infections. If left untreated, shingles can develop bacterial skin infections.
  • Vision loss. Shingles can cause eye infection and inflammation, which can progress into blindness.
  • Neurological problems. These occur when shingles affects the lining of the brain, causing inflammation.
  • Other complications, such as stroke, heart attack, ear inflammation and pain.

If you get shingles, get it treated immediately.

Related: Can Shingles Raise the Risk of Heart Attack?

If left untreated, shingles can develop serious complications like blindness

Shingles complications

How can you prevent and treat shingles?

There is no cure for shingles, but several medications can help relieve its symptoms. For example, using topical creams, like Prosurx, is a very effective option. This medication can help alleviate your pain and speed up the healing process. Besides, Prosurx can reduce your chances of passing the virus to other people. Many of the sufferers have used this and noticed no signs of shingles recurrences. Other medications used to treat shingles include acyclovir, famciclovir and ibuprofen. Before using them, ask your doctor if these can cause any side effects for you.

Aside from medications, you can also use natural remedies to get rid of shingles. These are:

  • Apply cold compresses;
  • Apply the mixture of baking soda, water and cornstarch;
  • Eat well-balanced diet, including foods with vitamins A, B-12, C, and E;
  • Consume supplements and herbal medicines, such as green tea, Echinacea.

To prevent shingles, you should take some helpful steps below:

  • Get a shingles vaccine;
  • Avoid contact with someone who has chickenpox or shingles;
  • Avoid touching or scratching the sores;
  • Wash your hands frequently;
  • Boost your immune system to fight against viruses.

Related: Foods to Avoid When Having Shingles

Treating shingles with natural ingredients like aloe vera

Natural remedy for shingles

Shingles is a painful and contagious condition that affects 25 percent of adults in the US. If you suspect that you have shingles, speak to your pharmacist or your doctor. To get rid of shingles fast and effectively, consider using antiviral medications.

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