Is Shingles Sexually Transmitted?
Causes Symptoms and Treatments of Shingles
Shingles is thought to be a virus that only affects older people, with nothing much to worry about for Millennials or Generation Z. Although there is some truth to this, with the vast majority of cases affecting those over the age of fifty, this painful condition can also affect younger people, especially those with a weakened immune system. If you’re worried that you might have shingles it’s always good to get it checked out, whatever your age.
Shingles is a painful viral infection that usually manifests in a spiral rash around the abdomen and occasionally on the face and other areas. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is also known as herpes zoster. Because it has the word ‘herpes’ in the name, you might think that it’s related to cold sores or genital warts, but this is not the case. Although shingles belongs to the herpes family it is a different virus to the one that causes genital herpes or cold sores. This means that it’s not a sexually transmitted infection. This post gives you an overview of shingles, how you get it, its symptoms and what can be done if you have an attack.
How do I Catch Shingles?
Shingles cannot be caught from another person. A person with shingles can only pass on the virus to someone who has not had chickenpox through contact with an open blister, which will remain infectious until it dries up and crusts over after approximately a week. The person exposed to the blister would develop chickenpox, not shingles. This means that shingles cannot be passed on sexually; however, if your sexual partner has a rash and you haven’t previously had chickenpox, there is a chance you could be infected from contact with the open blisters.
What Causes Shingles?
If you’ve ever had chickenpox, there is a chance that you could get shingles later in life. This is because the virus remains dormant in the nerves along the spine, head or neck and can become active and appear along the parts of the body supplied by the nerves. It commonly occurs in those over fifty years of age and is usually related to a weakened immune system. You are more at risk if you are:
- Experiencing stress
- Suffering from a weakened immune system due to conditions such as HIV infection, leukaemia or lymphoma
- Taking medication that suppresses your natural immune system, including cancer treatments.
Shingles can usually be seen as a visible rash around the torso. The rash starts off as red spots, which turn into fluid-filled blisters. The blisters eventually dry out and crust over, forming scabs, which will fall off after two to three weeks. Before any visible signs of shingles, there can be a number of symptoms that can occur for up to a week. These symptoms include:
- Tingling, numbness or pain
- Sensitivity to touch
- Constant aching
- Burning sensation
- Upset stomach.
Without the rash, it is difficult to diagnose shingles as the symptoms can indicate other conditions. However, once the rash has appeared, it’s easier to diagnose. A sample from the affected area can be examined under a microscope to determine the cause.
What can I do if I have an Attack of Shingles?
Shingles can be a painful and very uncomfortable condition, but there are a number of things you can do to make yourself more comfortable. These include:
- Taking paracetamol for the pain
- Applying a cold compress to affected areas
- Keeping the rash clean and dry to reduce infection
- Avoiding antibiotic cream.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of shingles, the best thing to do is to go and see your doctor. It is important to get shingles diagnosed as soon as possible, as early treatment with antiviral medicine can help lessen an attack, but this needs to be taken within the first few days of any visible symptoms.
Somebody with shingles cannot pass on shingles, but they can infect other people with chickenpox. This means that it is important to stay away from those most at risk such as:
- Pregnant women who have not had chickenpox
- Those with a weakened immune system
- Babies less that one-month old, unless it’s your own baby.
Until the blisters crust over, it is better to stay off work or school as it is more likely to be passed on.
If you are still concerned about shingles or have any questions regarding the varicella-zoster virus or any other conditions and treatments and would like to speak to one of our specialists, please call 02033 030 316 for impartial advice.