Shingles: Myths and Facts

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Myth: You can catch shingles from someone having chickenpox

Fact: Shingles is caused by reactivation of your own chickenpox virus, making it impossible to catch from someone else. However, there is a possibility to catch chickenpox from some having shingles. The virus is released from the lesions of the rash. Someone having rashes with open sores, they must stay away from people having chickenpox.

Myth: I have had shingles already, I can’t get it again

Fact: Just because shingles is caused by the same virus as shingles, many people believe that it shares the same features of chickenpox, specifically, once you get it you will not get it again. However, this is far from truth. You can develop shingles even if you had a minor case chickenpox. Although the risk is low but some people can develop shingles more than once.

Myth: I never had chickenpox, so I can’t get shingles

Fact: It is true that you can develop shingles only if you had chickenpox. However, some people don’t remember having chickenpox in their childhood, because it may have been very mild and you didn’t notice any obvious symptoms. However, even if you had a mild case of chickenpox, it can leave you at the risk of developing shingles later in life.

Myth: Dealing with rashes is the biggest concern about shingles

Fact: While rash is one of the crucial characteristic of shingles, it is not just about painful rashes. Shingles can also cause headache, fever, chills, upset stomach and can cause severe pain – which may begin two or three days before rash appears and last for months or even years. In rare circumstances, shingles can cause vision loss or hearing problems.

Myth: There is nothing one can do to avoid shingles

Fact: Until recently, this was true. However, now there is an effective and safe vaccine available to help prevent shingles. This vaccine is approved by The United States Food and Drug Administration. The pain associated with shingles can be severe and therefore, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends this vaccine for adults above 60 and older. So don’t let shingles impede with your quality of life.

Myth: Shingles is a rare disease

Fact: According to CDC, about one million people in the US get shingles each year. Studies have proved that about two in ten people develop shingles at some point in their lives. The rash may involve ears, mouth, eyes and face, as well as the extremities. There is a greater chance of developing shingles as one gets older, so as the population grows, we can surely expect even increased cases of shingles.

Myth: Shingles is same as chickenpox

Fact: While both shingles and chickenpox are developed by the same virus, varicella-zoster, both are not the same disease. In chickenpox, the blisters are formed on the skin which can be very itchy. While shingles blisters are developed only on one side of the body. They are more painful than chickenpox and are not itchy.

Myth: Only older people are affected by shingles

Fact: Anyone who had chickenpox is at the risk of developing shingles. Immunity is a factor that greatly increases the risk of shingles. And this is where this misconception came from. While older people do have weak immune system, but they also have other characteristics that put people at risk. Other people with weak immune system, suffering from cancer or HIV, are also at the risk of developing shingles.

Myth: Shingles is not contagious

Fact: Although you cannot catch shingles from someone having shingles. However, if you never had chickenpox, you could be infected with shingles virus. Shingles is contagious when blister-like lesions are open and weeping. This virus is spread by direct contact with the fluid from blisters and not by sneezing or coughing. If you have shingles, you should stay at home and avoid contact with others, since it may spread the virus.

Myth: Shingles goes away after few days

Fact: Often, the rash is gone over a few weeks, however, the enduring effects may be long-lasting. Unfortunately, up to 40% people having shingles, continue to develop the painful condition. A phenomenon known as post-herpetic neuralgia can stick on for years or even a lifespan.

If possible, shingles should be treated within the first 48 to 72 hours, which include taking medicines multiple time a day for about a week.