Q:

How do you contract shingles?

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Quick Answer

Shingles occurs when the same virus that causes chicken pox reactivates due to a weakened immune system or certain types of medication, according to WebMD. Only people who had chicken pox in the past can get shingles, and shingles is not contagious to those who have already had chicken pox or shingles. However, people with shingles can transmit chicken pox to people who never had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine.

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Full Answer

Shingles begins with pain, numbness, burning or tingling. After a few days, it causes a rash that creates blisters that eventually scab over. In mild cases, the rash may not blister, while some people may need two to four weeks for their rashes to fully heal, explains WebMD.

Shingles also may cause itching or sensitivity to touch, according to Mayo Clinic. Sometimes it also causes fatigue, headache, fever and light sensitivity.

There is no cure for shingles, but people who notice they have early symptoms of the condition should visit a doctor for a course of antiviral medication, according to WebMD. These medications can decrease the chance of complications and healing time. A doctor also may prescribe lidocaine or another numbing agent, narcotics, and tricyclic antidepressants to lessen the pain. Depending on the symptoms, a doctor may offer an injection of a local anesthetic and corticosteroid.

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