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JilltheTooth's avatar

Medical Jellies, what do you know about Shingles reccurence?

Asked by JilltheTooth (19692points) September 21st, 2010

I had Shingles last year (ick ick ick) and I know it can reoccur, but I can’t find a sympton list for that, only for the first time. Is there necessarily a rash? Will the shingles vaccine prevent another case? (I’m not eligible for that, BTW, being under 60) I’m just curious, no need to see the doctor.

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20 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I have had shingles outbreaks about 5 or 6 times. The first occurred in my mid twenties. I had another about a year later, and then about every other year for a few years. In the last 5 years it has happened once. I guess the first time was the worst? It was not diagnosed correctly my first time, but what most stood out for me was very swollen lymph nodes and the itch was the worst part. The reoccurrences have been very similar. The whole thing usually lasts around 3 weeks I think each time more or less. I do get some herpetic neuralgia in the area for a while following an outbreak, but it is more of an annoyance. The neuralgia causes me fear more than anything, that it is going to reoccur, it is not very painful. Every so often I have random sensation there after not having an occurrence for years, sometimes I get lucky and it just goes away in a day or two, sometimes not so lucky and it happens full blown again.

I know nothing about the vaccines, because I would not take it. My case is not severe enough right now, and the vaccine is fairly new. If my situation changed I might consider it if I was eligible.

Seaofclouds's avatar

From what I’ve seen, generally speaking the recurrence is usually the same as the initial outbreak. It can vary though. Shingles outbreaks can cause numbness, itching, severe pain, fever, headaches, chills, and a blistering rash. The pain can continue once the rash has gone away. It can occur without the rash as well (then it’s called zoster sine herpete) with all or just some of the other symptoms. When it occurs without a rash the pain is usually in the chest or back and can be so severe that it is mistaken for a heart attack or lung infection.

The Zostavax vaccine can be given even after someone has already had Shingles and it is suppose to reduce the risk of having another recurrence (but you would have to wait until 60 to get it, like you said).

My brother first had Shingles in his early 20s and has had several recurrences since then. When we had chickenpox as children, he had only a few spots while I was covered from head to toe (including the my palms and the soles of my feet and in my mouth). It was horrible for me. I always wondered if that had something to do with why he got Shingles so early and so many times (his doctor said stress played a huge role in his situation).

JilltheTooth's avatar

Thanks, guys. My rash was on my face very attractive and the other main symptom was a crushing fatigue for 4 months. Would the pain and neuralgia come back in the same place as the rash was? Sometimes I feel throbbing and pressure (slight swelling) in that area, but no outbreak. Not enough to bother with a med visit, like I said, just curious. If anything more develops, yes, I’ll see the doctor. Would anti-virals like I took for the first outbreak be effective for a recurrence, do you know?Yay! I finally spelled recurrence right!
@JLeslie ; God, what a damned bore for you!
@Seaofclouds : I officially dub thee, Primo Jelly Nurse!

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JilltheTooth Yes you can take anti-virals for the recurrences as well. They should be started within 24 hours of starting to feel pain (if possible) and ideally should be started before the rash appears. Since your rash was on your face the first time, I think you should call or see your doctor if you think you are having a recurrence. If you were to develop the blisters on your eyes, it could lead to blindness. I’m not trying to scare you with that, just trying to make sure you take care of yourself.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I appreciate the concern, thanks, @Seaofclouds . That’s why I went to the doctor when I thought it was a bug bite rash. Next time the swelling starts, I’ll definitely go see her. I don’t have prescription coverage, so it’s pretty daunting, those puppies are pricey!

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JilltheTooth That sucks (the lack of prescription coverage). Be sure to let your doctor know that as well. Some offices get samples of the medications, so she may be able to give you samples to help you save some money.

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m not sure what you mean by bore? Mine is not on my face, which I think would be much more annoying and difficult to deal with. If it reoccurs it will reoccur in the same spot. Also, I am not sure if you can spread it like other herpetic problems, I always assume I can, and I am careful not to accidentally autoinnoculate myself around my eyes. Maybe a doctor can answer that? Herpes in the eyes can be very bad, I assume Varicella would be bad news also. I once heard children can catch chicken pox from adults active with shingles, not sure if that is true either? I was going to rent myself out to a girlfriend who did not want to give her daughters the chicken pox vaccine, and started to get nervous they weren’t going to catch it at a young age.

I would think Zovirax should be pretty inexpensive by now? Maybe there is a dose for shingles? Zovirax is less convenient because you have to take it more often, short half life. I’ll try to look it up and give you the link if it is an option. I only once took medication for it, I don’t remember which drug it was, I know it wasn’t Zovirax, it was some samples my doc had at his office, which is another option, if you have to pay for the script yourself, maybe the doc can give you some of it for free.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, children can get chickenpox from an adult with an active Shingles outbreak.

JLeslie's avatar

There is a recommended dose for Zovirax http://us.gsk.com/products/assets/us_zovirax.pdf on page 4. 50 pills is probably around $50 from what I can tell from googling. I don’t know what the other meds might cost.

@Seaofclouds what about adults “catching” it from adults with active infection? I know it is latent varicella that decides to come back with a vengeance, but I have a friend who sat next to someone with a bad case of zoster, and she came down with her first case of it ever a few/several days later.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JLeslie If the adult has never had chickenpox, yes they could get chickenpox from someone with Shingles. We can’t get Shingles from another person with Shingles though.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seaofclouds my friend had had chicken pox as a child, just never shingles before this incident.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@JLeslie That’s really interesting. From everything I’ve been taught, you don’t get shingles form another person’s shingles. I wonder if something about being near the other person with shingles caused her dormant virus to wake up.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seaofclouds yeah, that is what I had understood also, and her doctor told her the same thing, but I question it. I have had doctors tell me you can’t catch a bacterial sinus infection from someone else, which to me is ludicrous and I have seen them travel through workplaces like wildfire. Anyway, back to zoster, if someone can autoinnoculate themselves, can they? Then I would guess it is possible it is catchy. My husband never caught it from me, but I am very careful when I have it, and he is young and healthy. My girlfriend is relatively healthy too, but she was in her late 50’s at the time, so maybe her immune system is not as good as my husbands. Still, I don’t think couples generally come down with it at the same time? Not sure. I never read anything regarding it.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I’ve never heard of someone spreading it to other parts of their body. The fluid in the blisters is contagious (for chickenpox) so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was possible. It could have just been a coincidence in your friends case.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks for the link! What I meant by “a bore” is the constant recurrences you have. Just a phrase. Actually, although it was icky on my face, and potentially dangerous to my eye, in a way it was easier to deal with. No waistbands touching the rash, no contact with bedding, etc. Although my cats would lick the srea at night…they thought it was yummy…(gagging) My doctor didn’t have enough samples to give out a whole course of treatment. Ah, well.
@Seaofclouds : So I wouldn’t be contagious if there are no blisters?

JilltheTooth's avatar

Actually, I’m more concerned about the return of the fatigue. It was debilitating. I don’t want to go through that again!

JLeslie's avatar

@JilltheTooth even if he gave you a 3 day supply, you would only have to buy 7 days, maybe $30. Since it is important to start as soon as possible, maybe a lot of docs do have samples. I never noticed I was more tired during shingles.

JLeslie's avatar

@Seaofclouds From what I understand moving it to your eyes is a concern for herpes I and II, not sure about zoster.

savannahms's avatar

Here’s a site with good, comprehensive information about shingles http://www.best-mens-skin-care.com/shingles.html

JLeslie's avatar

I meant to come back here and tell you that people have told me that caffiene and alcohol can bring on herpetic outbreaks, I would assume that includes shingles? In fact, I quit caffiene almost completely for 10 years, and I think I only had that one shingles occurrence during that time, I could be remembering incorrectly in the timing, but I definetly have had fewer occurrences. I never had really thought about it before. I don’t drink so I can’t tell you about that. I think the theory is those chemicals work on the nervous system, and those viruses travel down the nerve. I have no idea if their is any scientific studies to back this theory up.

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