Shingles is one of those conditions that is often misunderstood. Many of our patients initially think of shingles as a common and minor annoyance that merely requires them to take a few days off work to recover. The reality is that shingles can cause severe damage, especially if you don’t take the necessary steps to prevent or treat it.
Our skin care providers at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta believe that knowledge is the first step in taking better care of your skin. With that in mind, we are busting some of the most common myths and misunderstandings about shingles while offering the facts and guidance you need to know.
1. Shingles Is Primarily an Uncomfortable Rash
A skin rash is the symptom people most associate with shingles, but the illness goes far beyond the skin. First of all, shingles can have numerous symptoms besides the rash, such as a headache, unexplained tingling or pain in certain areas of the body, a fever, chills, and stomach discomfort. In fact, these symptoms sometimes begin before shingles does.
The rash itself is also commonly misunderstood. The most frequent area a shingles rash appears is around the torso, but you can get it in any area of your body too. Don’t assume that a rash isn’t shingles if it isn’t on your torso. Shingles rashes can also be difficult to diagnose and they often mimic other conditions, so it is crucial to visit our dermatologists promptly for an early diagnosis.
More importantly, though, patients need to know that shingles can cause serious health complications. If you don’t get the medication you need within the first three days, shingles can lead to nerve damage from a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia, which causes long-term nerve pain sometimes lasting years after you recover. In addition, shingles can damage vital organs like your heart, liver, and lungs. If the condition affects your face or head, you may even lose your sight or your hearing.
2. Shingles Vaccines Are Only for the Elderly
Most people are aware of the shingles vaccine, but they believe it is only for people who are elderly. In reality, there is a newer shingles vaccine that is administered as a series of two injections, so the CDC now recommends that everyone over 50 receives the shingles vaccine. If you receive the vaccine, you dramatically lower your risk of developing shingles. If you do develop shingles after getting the vaccine, the illness will be less severe than it would have been without the vaccine.
3. Shingles Is Just the Chickenpox
Shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus, but the two illnesses are very different. Their symptoms are different and the reactions they cause in your body are different too. Shingles tends to be more severe, although chickenpox can lead to serious complications as well. The important point to remember is that if you had chickenpox as a child and you recovered well, you should not assume that shingles will have the same outcome.
4. If You Get Shingles, You Should Stay Home to Recover
Most people do not go to the doctor every time they get sick, and that includes when they get shingles. Some assume that if you get shingles, you should simply stay home and allow your body to recover. In reality, though, getting treatment within the first three days of your shingles illness is critical for preventing severe complications. If you believe you have shingles, call Dermatology Associates of Atlanta immediately to schedule an appointment so we can confirm the diagnosis and treat you promptly.
When you want to protect your health, the first step is knowing what to look for and how to react if you begin to develop symptoms. Understanding the truth behind the myths and misconceptions above will help you reduce your risk for shingles and the serious complications that can come with it. For more helpful tips to enhance your skin health, follow Dermatology Associates of Atlanta on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.