Shingles is a disease that affects the nervous system. The defining signs appear on the skin, although symptoms such as fatigue and headache can be present. It is only possible to have shingles if you have ever had chicken pox. This is because it is the same virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. The virus is known as the varicella-zoster virus but also referred to as the herpes zoster virus.
Any part of the body can be affected by shingles. The face, lower back and chest are more commonly affected, however. Although the disease is not fatal, it can lead to complications that can prove serious. A common complication of shingles reported in 30% of all cases is that it causes prolonged pain in affected areas. The condition is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia. Without treatment, the pain can last for months or years.
There is no known cure for shingles. Available treatment options seek to improve its symptoms and shorten the recovery period. When shingles occurs on the forehead, scalp or nose, it can lead to inflammation in the brain among other unnecessary complications. This article investigates the causes, symptoms and treatments for shingles on face and scalp.
Shingles rash on forehead; causes, symptoms and treatments
No matter where it shows up, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. The first time a healthy person comes into contact with the varicella-zoster virus, the virus causes chicken pox. Symptoms of chicken pox linger for several weeks before disappearing. Chicken pox mostly develops in young adults and children. But even after successful recovery from the disease, causative virus does not entirely leave the body. It hides in sensory nerves that innervate different dermatomes in the body. There, the virus stays in latency for years or decades.
Shingles occurs when the dormant virus is reactivated. Reactivation is usually caused by weakened immunity.
Can stress cause shingles? Stress is also thought to partly responsible for some shingles flare ups. Technically, stress doesn’t cause shingles. What it does is trigger a variety of conditions which may weaken the immune system. When we develop chicken pox, our bodies become resistant, more like how vaccines work. For this reason, response to the effects of shingles virus only appear on localized areas, along affected nerves. Widespread shingles is fairly rare and only seen in people with serious immune issues. Can you get shingles under your breast? Any part of the body can be affected by shingles. This includes areas under the breast and even the genitals.
The forehead, cornea, upper eyelid, scalp and nose dorsum are all served by the trigeminal nerve, ophthalmic nerve to be more specific. If herpes zoster virus affects this nerve, symptoms can appear on any one or several of the mentioned facial regions.
Signs of shingles appear few days after the first symptoms. Affected areas become red, tender and inflamed. Small lesions soon appear on the reddened areas. These lesions are actually shingles blisters in their early stages. New lesions can keep appearing for the next 2-3 days. They do not remain as lesions for long. Gradually, blisters which often break open and ooze will form. How long does shingles rash last? Broken blisters start crusting over, a process that may go on for the next 2 weeks.
The defining characteristic of shingles rash is a band-like appearance. The rash occurs along the area served by affected nerve fiber. See shingles on the forehead pictures for illustrations.
If the ear is involved, the following symptoms may occur:
- Hearing issues
- Balance problems
- Paralysis or weakness in the facial muscles near affected ear
If the upper eyelid or cornea are involved, there may be the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Eye infection
- Redness in the affected eye or upper lid
- Pain or pressure inside the eye
Treatment is primarily done with antiviral drugs. Pain relievers may be prescribed but can also be bought over the counter, especially for mild cases.
Topical creams to reduce itchiness can be used as part of overall treatment. At home, you can try essential oils, oatmeal baths, capsaicin creams and calamine lotion. Be careful when using over the counter or natural remedies for shingles infection in the eye.
Shingles in nose symptoms, causes and treatments
As mentioned earlier, the trigeminal nerve serves the dorsum of the nose among other facial regions. If shingles in nose symptoms are to occur, they will present on the orifice of the nose.
It is not common for shingles to show up on the nasal region only. One of the common variations is a shingles infection in the eye and nose. This is referred to as Hutchinson’s sign. In this case, the herpes zoster virus affects a nerve that serves the inside of eye, thus causing symptoms such as swelling, changes in vision and blindness. The symptoms may be accompanied by a shingles rash on the end of the nose.
Another likely scenario is the shingles rash appearing around mouth, ear, nose and neck. This is referred to as Ramsay Hunt sign. Symptoms may include facial muscles paralysis, loss of hearing, pain inside the ear and dizziness.
Note that a shingles rash only occurs on one side of the body. For example, you can have the rash on the right ear or the left ear, but not both. It all comes down to the fact that shingles only affects the areas supplied by a particular nerve fiber. This can be seen in shingles on nose pictures. In people with serious immune complications, cases of disseminated shingles may occur. This is where signs occur in more than one dermatome.
People suffering from illnesses such as HIV or those receiving treatment for cancer can develop serious complications of shingles. These include chronic headaches, unconsciousness, inflammation in brain or spinal cord, pneumonia and difficulty breathing. Cases of shingles on nose should therefore be reported to a doctor in such cases.
Antiviral drugs are usually given as primary treatments. Other options include:
- Pain relievers
- Topical creams
- Home remedies
Shingles on scalp symptoms, causes and treatment
It is very likely that shingles on scalp symptoms will also involve the forehead or one eye. This is because the sensory nerve that serves the scalp also serves the forehead and upper eyelid.
First symptoms are usually similar to those of common cold or flu. They include fatigue, fever, headache and nausea. After a day or two, there will be pain, tingling, itching or burning effect on affected areas. Shingles rash and blisters may appear 2-3 days after. Some patients experience pain without a rash.
Shingles blisters on scalp cause permanent damage to hair follicles. This leads to bald patches on affected areas. See shingles on scalp pictures. Only in rare cases will inflammation in the brain result from shingles on scalp.
Treatment can be done in the following ways:
- Use of antiviral drugs like acyclovir. Antiviral drugs work best when started within 72 hours of first symptoms. They don’t cure shingles but succeed in making the outbreaks shorter.
- Use of cool compresses to relieve itching and pain. To use a cool compress, soak a piece of cloth in cool water, wring it out and hold it against the affected areas for 20 minutes.
- Applying topical products. Topical products indicated for shingles treatment work in a variety of ways. For example, they may contain antihistamines which help relieve itchiness. They can also be carrying corticosteroids, popular treatments for inflammation and itchiness. Some creams contain capsaicin, a product known to treat shingles nerve pain.
- Applying calamine lotion to relieve itching.
- If shingles is causing prolonged pain that outlasts all other symptoms, medical attention should be sought. In that case, antidepressants and other such medications will be used to manage the pain.
Other than treatment, preventive measures can help when dealing with a shingles outbreak. CDC guidelines for shingles are a good place to start. You can also consider learning more on how to keep shingles from spreading on your body. For example, including foods rich in vitamins and minerals may help. In fact, lysine supplements are sometimes used for shingles treatment.
Vaccines for shingles on forehead, scalp and nose
The first shingles vaccine was approved by FDA in 2006. Zostavax is a live vaccine given in one shot. It is indicated for people over the age of 50 years. The vaccine remains active for about 5 years. Currently, a booster is not yet approved.
In 2017, Shingrix was also approved as a shingles vaccine. It is given in 2 shots and is a nonliving vaccine. The vaccine is estimated to be effective for more than 5 years. Like Zostavax, it is indicated for people over the age of 50 years. Shingrix can be given to people who already had Zostavax.
Vaccines can help with recurring shingles but do not sure ongoing infection. It is advisable to talk with your doctor before taking either vaccine. For example, Zostavax is only effective for about 5 years. Shingles complications are most likely in people above the age of 60 years.
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