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Top 5 Myths About Shingles

Top 5 Myths About Shingles

Shingles is a painful skin disease that affects 1 in 3 people and is caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox, including children, can get shingles and the risk of developing the disease increases with age, emotional stress, and a weakened immune system. The most common place to get shingles is on the abdomen, but you can get it on your neck, face or even in or around one eye.

Despite how common shingles is there is a lot of misinformation out there about it. Here are the top 5 most common myths about shingles and what you need to know to help protect yourself.

Myth #1- The first sign of shingles is a skin rash. Shingles often starts with a headache, fever, chills, or nausea followed by a tingling, itching, burning, or stabbing pain under the skin. You may not notice anything on the skin at first, but after a few days you may notice a rash or stripes of raised, fluid-filled blisters.

Myth #2- You can only get shingles once. It is rare but not uncommon to have shingles more than once. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant, or inactive, in the body and can reactivate months or years later. Those who have multiple bouts typically don’t get the rash or blisters in the same place.

Myth #3- It’s not contagious. Someone with shingles can’t spread shingles, but they can spread chickenpox. The rash or oozing blisters must be kept covered to avoid contact with someone who has never had chickenpox or a chickenpox vaccine.

Myth # 4- It goes away quickly. Almost 40% of those who get shingles feel burning or shooting pain for months or years after the rash or blisters are gone. This condition is called postherpetic neuralgia, in which the nerves are damaged from to the shingles infection. Doctors can help control the pain with a variety of treatments including pain-relief medications, nerve block injections and, in extreme cases, a nerve stimulator can be implanted to block the pain signals.

Myth # 5- There is nothing you can do to prevent it. Although there is no cure, shingles can be treated and prevented. A shingles vaccine has been on the market since 2006, and the FDA approved a new shingles vaccine in 2017 that is safer and 90% effective in reducing the risk of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia. The CDC currently recommends the shingles vaccine for adults 50 years old and older.

If you think you think you may have shingles, talk to your doctor as soon as possible about what treatment options are best for you. If you are aged 50 or older, discuss shingles prevention options with your healthcare provider to prevent severe symptoms and complications associated with shingles.