​What to Know About Shingles Rash – Pictures, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Do you know that you are at a high risk of developing shingles if you previously had chickenpox? A dormant chickenpox-causing virus is responsible for causing shingles. After your chickenpox condition resolves, the virus can then lay dormant for years, later erupting and causing shingles. Even though shingles is most prevalent in people aged 50 and above, children can get it as well (but rarely).

Statistics reveal that about 1 in 3 people in the US will get shingles or herpes zoster (another name for shingles) in their lifetime.

What is Shingles?

Shingles is a viral disease that affects your nerves, causing a burning rash with blisters. The rash band only appears on one side of the body. It can develop into a stripe of rash and pustules that wrap around your right or left side.

What Triggers a Shingles Outbreak?

It is a virus called varicella-zoster. The virus initially causes chickenpox, and later in life it causes shingles. After the first chickenpox infection resolves itself, the virus becomes inactive and lies dormant in the dorsal root ganglia - the nerve cell clusters of the peripheral nervous system.

What keeps the virus dormant or inactive is a healthy immune system. It can remain dormant in your entire life without causing any health problems.

Some factors can compromise your immune system to revive the virus into action. Medications, infections, and age are primary factors that may weaken your immune system.

Not all adults who had chickenpox in their childhood will get shingles even though they live with varicella-zoster virus in their nervous system. As we mentioned earlier, only one in three adults will have an active virus outbreak later in life.

Shingles is not a rare skin condition. It affects approximately one million people annually in the US alone. The data of affected senior adults aged 60 and above is about half a million annually, placing them more prevalent in shingles.

Some of the shingles patients may end up with chronic complications that would last them their lifetime. Others may experience highly fatal complications such as brain inflammation.

Shingles in children is rare. Just like in adults, a compromised immune system can activate the varicella-zoster virus in a child.

Shingles skin condition can be painful even though not life-threatening. 'Shingles' is a Latin word that means a belt. It explains the fluid-filled blister rash stripe that appears on one side of the body.

The skin condition can either be non-rash shingles or shingles with a rash.

There are few cases of non-rash shingles called zoster sine herpete (ZSH), while the characteristic rash shingles are called herpes zoster.

The rash that appears in shingles is the main sign of herpes zoster. The non-rash shingles or zoster sine herpete does not produce a band of rash as its symptom. Nevertheless, it would have the rest of the symptoms similar to those of herpes zoster.

Commonly, the rash shingles would appear with pustules or fluid-filled blisters that form a stripe along a single sensory nerve. The infection can first cause sensitivity with acute pain in the affected area, which then can lead to fever.

The primary areas that are affected by shingles are:

Torso - Shingles of the Torso

Shingles may attack one side of your torso either on the rib cage or the waist from the front to back midsection. The rash may appear like a half belt on the affected side of your torso.

Scalp - Shingles of the Scalp

Shingles may develop on your scalp to cause scalp sensitivity. You can feel pain when brushing or combing your hair. If this kind of shingles remains without treatment, you will risk patches of baldness.

If the rash is close or touches the ear, it can lead to hearing loss and affect your balance when walking.

Mouth - Shingles of the Mouth

Besides the common shingles symptoms, mouth shingles can cause challenges in eating. It can also lead to losing a sense of taste, sharp teeth nerve pain, or nerve damage. The disease can also cause scarring inside and outside one side of your mouth.

Eye - Shingles of the Eye

The ophthalmic herpes zoster is the eye shingles that affect one eye, either the left or right. The shingles rash can spread on the eyelid, one side of the forehead, and one side of the nose.

Ophthalmic herpes zoster can cause blisters on the affected areas, and intense throbbing or burning pain, eye redness, blurred vision, and eye tearing. Swelling on the affected area is also another ophthalmic herpes zoster symptoms.

Long after getting well, the eye can continue aching or blurring if the shingles damaged the eye nerve.

Buttocks - Shingles at the Buttocks

Shingles can even appear on one side of your buttocks. You will experience the usual symptoms, including intense pain. The bottom shingles may interfere with your sitting or lying on the affected side.

Is Shingles Contagious?

No, shingles is not contagious in itself, however, it can transmit chickenpox to anyone who has never had it. It would then be prudent to stay away from children and any adult with a weak immune system, or pregnant mothers until shingles blisters form scabs, a sign of drying up and healing.

What are the Symptoms of Shingles? 

Early Signs

  • Swelling and tenderness to touch
  • Severe shooting pain along the affected nerve
  • Tingling under the skin of the affected area
  • Itching

Other Signs After a Few Hours

  • Fatigue
  • Headache and feverish chills
  • Continuous horrific pain along the nerve (as one patient described)
  • Raised red dots forming a band along the affected sensory nerve line
  • The little dots gradually start to fill up with fluid to form blisters
  • The blisters sometimes open to weep out the fluid to become crusty

Shingles Development Pattern

The stages of shingles development would differ with each individual and the site of the infection. However, there is a typical pattern shingles infection follows, which is:

  • The initial sign on the first day of shingles is tingling and almost burning-like pain
  • The shingles pain which is continuous is accompanied by itching and sometimes numbness
  • After a day and up to five days, a stripe of red rash may appear
  • After a day or two of the red rash, they upgrade into fluid-filled blisters
  • Depending on the treatment you get, the blisters would burst to weep out the fluid between a week and ten days.
  • The blisters would then would dry to crust over and form scabs
  • After another a week or two, the scabs start to peel off and clear up
  • Within a month, the entire process is over, and the crusts will have all cleared up. Unfortunately, the affected area remains with scars for months before clearing completely. For other cases and depending on the severity of the infection, some of the scars may never clear completely.
  • How long does shingles last? Shingles can last for about three to five weeks, again depending on a person's immune system and the effect of the infection.

Shingles Causes

Varicella-zoster virus is the leading cause of shingles. After the chickenpox bout, the varicella-zoster virus goes into recess.

Due to some conditions later in life, the same dormant virus becomes active to cause shingles. Although it is not clear why such a virus reactivates at some point in life, a weak immune system is closely associated with shingles.

Various factors can lead to a weakened immune system such as alcohol, smoking, poor nutrition, viral infections such as HIV that leads to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and cancer. Others are old age, which decreases the functions of T-cells to compromise the immunity.

If you have conditions, the inactive varicella-zoster virus can revive at any time to strike again, and this time with shingles.

Shingles Risk Factors

Chickenpox precedes shingles. If you had chickenpox at one time, you might have shingles if you are:

Above 50 years. Adults above 50 years are more at risk of shingles.

Medication. If you are on immunosuppressant drugs such as a high dose of antirejection medications given after organ transplant, you are at risk of shingles. Discuss with your doctor about such a therapy, the risks involved, and what to do.

Diseases. Some diseases can suppress your immune system to raise your risk of shingles. HIV/AIDS and cancer are some of the conditions that can weaken your immunity.

Therapy. Cancer treatment procedures such as chemotherapy or radiation can weaken your body and the immune system and hence fail to resist infections such as shingles.

Diagnosing Shingles

It is not complicated to diagnose shingles, especially the herpes zoster type. The burning pain and the band of blisters are enough to make the right diagnosis. If in non-rash shingles, the same intense pain and tender to touch area can direct your health personnel to diagnose it.

To be precise in diagnosing, your doctor may test the blisters to check the presence of herpes zoster antibodies.

For the asymptomatic type, your health personnel would test your blood for the presence of the virus.

Shingles Complications

Get treatment immediately if you notice the said symptoms to avoid complications. Early treatment can save you a prolonged period of anguish and pain with shingles.

The following are some of shingles complications:

Postherpetic Neuralgia - It is an extensive burning pain that extends long after blisters have all dried up. It is a neural reaction of a damaged nerve fiber to the brain and the skin.

Eye Damage - Eye damage that can lead to vision loss. Ophthalmic shingles can lead to infection of the cornea from the blisters close to the eye.

Herpes Zoster Oticus - Shingles can damage your facial nerve that serves your ears. The damage can cause Ramsay Hunt Syndrome or herpes zoster oticus to affect your hearing and sometimes leave you with facial paralysis. You can also experience balance problems, especially when walking.

Skin Infection - Open infected blister can leave you with bacterial skin infection, another health problem.

Inflammation Infection - encephalitis is a medical term to mean brain infection. The shingles virus can also attack your spinal cord or your brain to cause inflammation of the brain. The virus can also cause inflammation of the spinal cord (myelitis)

You can only avoid such adverse complications if you get an early shingles treatment and secure close monitoring of the disease by medical staff. 

Shingles disease often appears once. However, there are rare cases of shingles arising more than once.

Herpes Zoster vs. Herpes Simplex

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) causes Herpes zoster. The virus initially causes chickenpox, which remits to appear later in life as herpes zoster. Herpes zoster is not contagious, but its virus can transmit chickenpox to anyone vulnerable to the infections.

Herpes Simplex

Herpes simplex is a skin disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus has two types that produce two different herpes simplex, virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which produces blistered cold sores around and inside your mouth. The painful and itchy sores can also cause painful and tender lymph nodes and fever. Oral herpes simplex is contagious and can be transmitted through mouth contacts such as kissing, sharing lip balm, or lipstick

Herpes simplex oral type has no age prevalence. It can affect children as well as the old. Children can get HSV-1, primarily through a mouth kiss from an infected and probably an asymptomatic person.

For HSV-2, you get genital herpes. You can get this type of herpes simplex through unprotected sex.

A pregnant mother with genital herpes can also transmit the virus to her child through childbirth. Your child may then be exposed to both types of herpes simplex throughout their entire life.

Painful blisters or sores around the genital and anal area are the primary symptoms of genital herpes.

Both types of herpes simplex can be asymptomatic. It means that the virus may go unnoticed through a lack of symptoms. The unfortunate side of it is that you can infect others unknowingly.

Home remedies for shingles

Shingles Treatment

Standard Treatment for Shingles. According to Mayo Clinic, shingles has no cure. But you can have treatment to ease the symptoms rapidly.

Your doctor may prescribe the following medicines:

  • Ibuprofen - Anti-inflammatory drug
  • Codeine - Narcotic medicine to reduce pain
  • Neurontin - anticonvulsants to relieve prolonged and severe pain
  • Lidocaine - Local anesthetic medication to use topically for numb the burning area
  • Zostrix - Capsaicin for topical use reduces the risk of postherpetic neuralgia, a shingles complication that causes prolonged and severe nerve pain
  • Antiviral medicines - Such as valacyclovir (Valtrex), acyclovir (Zovirax), and famciclovir (Famvir)
Home Remedies for Shingles

You can use some of the home remedies to ease your pain and aid quick recovery. The following are some of the home remedies you can use.

Essential Oils Application

The use of essential oils is a practice that dates back to many centuries. Some essential oils have useful properties such as antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory in treating skin conditions. You can mix Tea Tree Oil and Silver Sheild Gel for topical use only.

Witch Hazel. You can use witch hazel to apply on the affected areas to ease inflammation pain, and irritation for quick relief.

Oat Bath. Use colloidal oatmeal, which is FDA approved for topical use on the skin that has been affected by shingles. The application is also a quick relief for itchiness, inflammation, and pain.

Gentiana Scabra. Gentiana Scabra is an effective formula for herpes zoster  fast pain relief that lowers the risk of postherpetic neuralgia. The wildflower is popular in areas around North America.

Cold Compresses

You can seek instant burning pain, inflammation, and itchiness by using cold compresses on the affected site. You can use a cloth for the process.

Alternative Treatment 
Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a Chinese method that treats various health conditions, which includes shingles. It treats lesions caused by shingles and lowers the risk of postherpetic neuralgia.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a therapy for relieving pain postherpetic neuralgia using tiny electrical pulses. Consult your medical staff for such a process.

Shingles Skin Disease Complementary and Alternative Therapy

There are various alternative treatments for skin health issues. However, you may require consulting your health practitioner for the best therapy and advice. The following are some of the recommendations from our natural health practitioner, Yvonne Dollar Perc.

Live Blood Testing

We do Live Blood Analysis and look at dry blood samples specifically.

Your immune system is your defense against virus infections; therefore, it is vitally important to keep it healthy. The images above are of white blood cells that have been compromised.

Viral Spiking: Observed in Layer(s):

A look at the dry blood shows the black fibrin lines extend like spokes into the white open areas. This is mostly connected to viral conditions. 

Herbs and Supplements for use in natural alternative therapy.

Passion Flower, 100 Caps - Passionflower is well known for its support to the nervous system. In traditional herbal medicine, passion flower is widely recommended for its gentle tranquilizing sedative properties when one cannot find rest due to mental stress.
HRP-C, 100 Vegcaps – Naturally supports the immune system for internal use. 
HRP-C Extract, 59ml – Apply topically to affected areas. Both work together in tandem. 

Conclusion

The base factor for shingles attack is a weak immune system. Since conventional treatment has no cure for chickenpox and shingles, the virus remains dormant as long as you have a healthy immune system. It then strikes when some conditions compromise your immunity.

If you are at risk of shingles, whether through using certain medications or other health conditions, it is advisable to maintain a robust immune system always. You can consult your nutritionist or health practitioner to customize a meal plan with the right diet suitable for your case.

At Island Healthworks Natural Clinic, we can organize an immune system boosting herbal plan unique for you. We may include some dietary supplements as well.

While organizing your herbal plan, we are careful to use exceptional products from a trusted source such as Nature's Sunshine, for remarkable results. We know that some natural product sources may not exercise strict measures such as using organic farm products or even hygiene. It's more of a reason to be selective while sourcing for our natural products.

Would you like to know more about the immune-boosting natural health solutions for shingles? Please arrange to reserve an appointment for one-on-one or on-phone consultation with our Natural Health Practitioner and Master Herbalist Yvonne Dollard Perc by calling our clinic telephone number +250.468.7685. Alternatively, you get in touch with us through our email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Would you like to learn all about your body systems? Click here to read and learn how your body functions by using different systems.

Maintain a healthy you - "It is health that is the real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver" - A quote by M. Gandhi 


Yvonne Dollard Perc: Owner of Island Healthworks, Natural Health Practitioner, Teacher, Writer and Editor.
Elizabeth Njuguna: Researcher, Freelance Writer, with a Focus on Natural Health.
Sherry Robb: Print, Web and Social Media Designer Specializing in the Natural Health and Fitness Industries.

Island Healthworks offers in-person and virtual consultations for assessment of your specific needs, with health & lifestyle coaching, featuring the best of integrative natural health care. To book your consultation, please call 250-468-7685!

This article is intended for educational purposes and the information contained within is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem. Please seek appropriate medical attention for any health complaints. We cannot take responsibility for your health care decisions. Our intent is only to offer health information to help you with your search for better health. 

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Thursday, 22 October 2020