What You Need to Know About Shingles Without Rashes

You may not know it, but shingles doesn’t always appear with a visible rash. Shingles without any visible rash is called zoster sine herpete or ZSH. This type of shingles is uncommon and is difficult to diagnose because of the absence of a rash, which is one of the most common symptoms of this  viral infection.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. This virus is known as varicella zoster virus (VZV). After an individual has recovered from chickenpox, the virus becomes dormant and stays in the nerves of the person forever.

When the virus awakens, it causes shingles and is known as herpes zoster. There is no clear medical explanation yet as to why the virus reactivates and why it only happens to a few people.

Symptoms of shingles without any rash

The symptoms of shingles without a rash are the same as the signs you would experience if you have regular shingles or the variety with a rash—the only difference is that it is experienced without a visible rash. Just like the regular shingles, the signs are localized or felt in a small area of the body.

The symptoms are felt on one side of the neck, the face, and the eyes. They may also appear in the internal organs, just as many people experience when they get a regular shingles.

Below are the most common symptoms that you may experience when you are suffering from shingles without a rash.

  • A terrible burning feeling
  • Itchiness
  • Numbness
  • Headache
  • Lethargy
  • Painful feeling all over the body; the pain may be felt more coming from the spine
  • Sensitive to touch

Causes of shingles with no rashes

As mentioned earlier, there is no clear medical explanation yet why the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster virus (VZV), reactivates for some as shingles. But based on records, shingles normally occurs in individuals whose immune system have been weakened by the following:

  • Radiation or chemotherapy for cancer
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (AIDS)
  • Organ transfer or transplant
  • High dosages of steroids, specifically corticoid
  • Stress

Shingles can’t be acquired by simply being in contact with someone. It is not a contagious disease or virus. However, if you have an active shingles and you come in contact with a person who has not had chickenpox before, or did not receive the vaccine against it, the likelihood of that individual developing chickenpox is very high.

The possibility of passing the virus if you have shingles without a rash is less. Despite this, it is advisable for a person with shingles, with or without a rash, to prevent any contact with persons who have not had any chickenpox history, those with low immune systems, pregnant women, and the likes until the symptoms have disappeared.

People at risk of developing shingles

Shingles can only develop in individuals who had no chickenpox previously.  The risk of getting the virus is high for those who:

  • Are older adults or those above 50-years-old
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Have stress brought by major surgery

Diagnosis of shingles without any rash

As mentioned in the previous sections above, shingles without a rash is an uncommon condition compared to the variety with rashes. Since there are no physical or visible symptoms, it is more difficult to diagnose.

To diagnose it accurately, medical tests involving your blood, saliva or cerebrospinal fluid have to be performed. This test will validate the presence of varicella zoster virus (VZV) antibodies, but the tests are not always conclusive. Your complete medical history will play an important role in assessing if you have acquired shingles without a rash.

How to treat shingles without a rash

If you have been diagnosed with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), your doctor will prescribe anti-viral medicines to treat the virus. Additional medicines may be recommended by the doctor to ease any pain or burning sensation that you are feeling.

If you think that you have shingles, it is highly recommended to visit a doctor and have yourself checked. A confirmatory test can be performed and proper medication can be started. This will help prevent the spread of the virus and let the symptoms abate as quickly as possible.
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