Shingles Myths

Shingles Explained

Shingles is a viral infection that causes formations of blisters or rashes on one side of the body. It is an extremely painful condition that can last up to months, but it is not life-threatening and can be treated in a number of different ways.

Myth: Shingles is a condition that only elderly people contract

Everyone is at risk for developing shingles. People of all ages that have had chickenpox (full blown or mild cases) and those who have not had it are at risk. People that did not have chickenpox previously will actually develop chickenpox when exposed to the shingles virus. Another factor that greatly increases the chances of shingles is having a weakened immune system. This is where the misconception that older people get shingles can come from. Older people do tend to have slightly weaker immune systems but they may also have one of the other factors that put people at risk. Other people with weakened immune systems might be suffering from another disease, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer. It is also possible that people who are getting chemotherapy or radiation treatments for those diseases to be at a higher risk for shingles.

Myth: Shingles is the same as chickenpox

Shingles and chickenpox are both caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which is dormant in the body after getting chickenpox. Therefore, the two conditions are different forms of the virus. In chickenpox blisters form on the skin (over the entire body) that are extremely itchy and irritated. Chickenpox is the most contagious two to three days prior to the breakout of the blisters. With shingles blisters form only on one side of the body and are more painful and are not itchy. Shingles is contagious after the blisters have formed and only until scabs have formed on the blisters.

Myth: Shingles is not a very serious condition

Shingles is a treatable condition but if it is left untreated, it can have serious effects on one's body. Even though it has never been known to be fatal, it should not be taken lightly. If ignored it can be harmful a person's vision, causing permanent damage, such as blindness or scars on the eye. This can be detected by the appearance of blisters on the tip of one's nose. People can also have continual pain and irritation where a rash was for months or years, even after it has disappeared.

Myth: Shingles is not very common

Shingles affects about one million people, young and old, in the United States every year. Studies have shown that about two in ten people get shingles at some point in their lives. Shingles is a serious viral infection that can be painful to experience. The blisters can leave scars and can last or the pain from them can last for months to years. It is best to stay away from someone with shingles if possible because everyone is at risk for it, and it is possible for those with shingles to spread it to others. 


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