Can You Squeeze Blisters From Shingles?
Shingles often present as a painful rush around either side of your torso. This viral infection causes a stripe of blisters around the infected area. The varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, may reactivate years later. This virus often lies dormant within your nervous system once you recover from chickenpox.
While the reason for this infection may be unclear, lowered immunity in older adults often contributes to the possibility of this infection. Older adults and individuals with weak immune systems are more prone to the disease, which can be very painful. Using vaccines lowers the chances of getting infected. Doctors also recommend early treatment to reduce complications and shorten the infection period.
One to five days before the rash, you may experience the first symptoms. The early warning signs develop in the location where the rash will form. They include:
- Slight pain
When you have this condition, you’ll first experience localized pain, which can be intense. A tingling sensation often accompanies the problem in the early stages of infection. You may also experience general weakness, fever, chills, and a burning sensation. Some patients develop an upset stomach, although this occurs in rare cases.
The rash develops a few days later as a stripe of blisters around either side of your torso. You’ll notice red or pink blotchy patches that usually cluster along nerve pathways. This belt-like appearance led to the infection’s name, which scientists derived from the Latin word for belt. At this point, the disease is not contagious. Some people may not develop the rash. Most people completely recover from the inflammation after two to four weeks.
The condition can also affect the facial nerves that control sensations and facial movements. This type is known as ophthalmic, where the rash presents around your eye, nose, and forehead. The common symptoms of this condition include:
- Eye swellings and redness
- Drooping eyelid
- Blurred or double vision
You can easily mistake cold sores for the viral infection, given that they also develop as small blisters. The herpes simplex virus is responsible for such sores, often appearing around your mouth and on the lips. Itchy blisters may also arise due to a reaction to sumac, oak, or poison ivy. Always seek the indulgence of your healthcare provider if you’re uncertain about what’s causing your rash.
A few days later, the rash progresses to fluid-filled blisters. You may experience itching as new blisters develop. These blisters will either appear on your face or the torso. In a few exceptions, you may find them on your lower body.
The infection often presents as a ‘belt’ around your waist or close to the ribcage. Some medical circles use the term ‘girdle’ or ‘band’ when discussing this belt. Patients may experience lots of discomfort when using tight clothing.
Scabbing and Crusting
When they become fully formed, blisters may erupt and ooze. As the liquid dries up, they will turn yellow and flatten subtly. Scabs will form afterward when the blisters dry out. After two weeks, you’ll notice that each blister will completely crust over. At this point, the pain eases subtly.
Your doctor will have an easy time diagnosing the condition once the rash appears. The virus is less likely to spread once the crusting process is complete for all blisters.
The signs and symptoms vary between different individuals but often include:
- Sensitivity to touch and light
- Red rashes
- Pain, tingling, burning, or numbness
- Fluid-filled blisters
- Fever and headaches
Are They Contagious?
If you have the infection, you can pass the varicella-zoster virus to people without chickenpox immunity. This transmission often occurs via direct contact with the open sores. Rather than developing this condition, infected people will suffer from chickenpox. People who have had chickenpox or the vaccine to prevent it are less to pick up the virus.
Avoiding physical contact with vulnerable people, including newborns, pregnant women, and the elderly, ensures that you don’t pass the virus to anyone else. Give the blisters time to scab over and cover them to reduce the chances of being contagious.
Developing the viral infection is a possibility for anyone who has had chickenpox. The risk of getting infected increases with age as people older than age 60 are up to 10 times more susceptible than their younger counterparts. Besides, other factors may increase your risk of developing the condition, including:
- Certain diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS which weaken your immune system
- Being older than 50
- Prolonged use of steroidsUndergoing radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer
- Taking medications that prevent rejection of translated organs
- Long-term stress or trauma
Open sores often run the risk of getting bacterial infections. Squeezing blisters can create open sores and increase the possibility of developing a secondary disease. Avoiding scratching and regularly cleaning the sore helps to minimize such conditions. People with a weakened immune system are also susceptible to secondary infections. Reach out to your doctor if you have any signs of these conditions to prevent permanent scarring on your skin. With the right treatment, the infection won’t spread to other areas.
Doctors recommend antiviral medications to reduce the effects of the condition. Starting prescription drugs earlier, preferably at the first sign of the rash, makes the infection milder and shorter. Treatment options include valacyclovir, acyclovir, or famciclovir. For shingles cream, try topical capsaicin patch (qutenza), which doctors recommend as one of the best creams for shingles. You may also use anti-itch lotions and pain relievers to relieve the pain and itching.
The Healing Process
The rash often takes two to four weeks to heal completely. While most people experience a complete recovery without scarring, some patients may have a few minor scars. If you develop complications like postherpetic neuralgia, the pain may continue for a few months.
This complication usually arises when your nerves become damaged during the infection. According to the CDC, some patients might also have multiple developments.
In extreme cases, itching sensation or pain can result in depression, insomnia, or weight loss. Other complications include hearing or balance problems arising from virus attacks to the ear, brain, or spinal cord infection or eye infections causing temporary loss of vision.