- Shingles and Pregnancy Center
- Take the Shingles Quiz
- Shingles Slideshow Pictures
- Gallery of Skin Problems Pictures and Images Collection
- Find a local Doctor in your town
- Shingles in pregnancy facts
- What is shingles?
- What do shingles look like?
- What are the signs and symptoms of shingles?
- How is shingles diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for shingles in pregnancy?
- Antiviral medication to treat shingles
- Pain medication to treat shingles
- Antihistamine medication to treat shingles
- What are the complications of shingles in pregnancy?
- What is the outlook (prognosis) for shingles in pregnancy?
- Can shingles in pregnancy be prevented?
Shingles in pregnancy facts
- Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash that results from reactivation of infection with the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the virus that causes chickenpox.
- The rash of shingles can be extremely painful and typically occurs over the area of one nerve.
- Antiviral medications are used to treat shingles. These drugs are safe to use in pregnancy.
- Other medications to manage shingles can include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) for pain relief or antihistamines for itching.
- Complications from shingles occur most often in older adults and are less common in pregnant women.
- Shingles in pregnancy typically heals without long-term problems for mother or baby.
What is shingles?
Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by reactivation of prior infection with the same virus that previously caused chickenpox, known as varicella zoster virus (VZV). VZV belongs to the herpes family of viruses, but it is not the same virus that causes genital herpes or cold sores on the mouth. When a person is infected with VZV in childhood, they typically develop chickenpox, but after the illness resolves the VZV remains in a dormant state in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body. Under certain circumstances, such as emotional stress, immune deficiency (from AIDS or chemotherapy), or with cancer, the virus reactivates and causes the skin and nerve inflammation known as shingles.
Shingles occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60, but anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk, including pregnant women. It has been estimated that up to 1,000,000 cases of shingles occur each year in the U.S.
What do shingles look like?
What are the signs and symptoms of shingles?
The hallmark symptom of shingles is a painful, blistering rash. Pain from shingles may be severe in intensity. The pain, or a tingling sensation in some cases, may precede the development of the actual rash, making the cause of the pain hard to ascertain. Small blisters form on a red base, and new blisters continue to appear for 3 to 5 days. The rash follows the path of individual nerves, and typically presents in a band-like pattern on one side of the body. After the blisters rupture, they begin to crust over and heal. The entire outbreak from onset to healing takes about 3 to 4 weeks.
How is shingles diagnosed?
The characteristic rash of shingles typically suggests the diagnosis, and in most cases, no specific diagnostic tests are required. In cases in which there is pain but no apparent rash, the diagnosis can be very difficult. Laboratory testing to detect the genetic material or surface proteins of the VZV can be used in atypical or difficult cases.
What is the treatment for shingles in pregnancy?
Treatment for shingles is generally prescription or over-the-counter antiviral, pain, and antihistamine medication.
Antiviral medication to treat shingles
The prescription antiviral medications typically used to treat shingles are safe to take during pregnancy. These drugs include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), or famciclovir (Famvir). Antiviral medications can reduce the severity and duration of the rash if started early (within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash).
Pain medication to treat shingles
Pain medications, such as acetaminophen, can also be used for pain relief, although these will not affect the progression of the blisters and rash. Pregnant women should discuss any pain relief medications with their health care professional. Pregnant women should not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, etc.) late in the pregnancy.
Antihistamine medication to treat shingles
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can help reduce any associated itching. Other home remedies for itching include oatmeal baths and calamine lotion. Many women find that applying cool cloths or compresses provides relief as well. Keeping the affected areas covered with clean gauze and wearing loose clothing can help speed healing and prevent secondary infection of the affected skin.
What are the complications of shingles in pregnancy?
Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication of shingles. This condition develops in about 20% of people who have shingles and is characterized by persistent pain at the affected site after the rash has disappeared. It goes away by 4 months after the initial rash in most people. This complication is less common in pregnant women since it rarely occurs in people under 40 years of age. Postherpetic neuralgia is more common in people over 60 who do not receive treatment for shingles.
Shingles that affects the eye is another uncommon condition. It is essential to see a doctor if you develop shingles around the eye area. In very rare cases, the virus can spread to the brain and membranes around the central nervous system. Other potential complications include hearing or balance problems and weakness of the muscles on one side of the face, known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. All of these complications, like postherpetic neuralgia, are more common in older adults and affect pregnant women less commonly.
Sometimes, secondary bacterial infections develop at the site of the rash. These can be treated with antibiotics, and antibiotics can be chosen that are safe for use in pregnancy.
Quick GuideShingles Rash Pictures, Symptoms, Vaccine Facts
What is the outlook (prognosis) for shingles in pregnancy?
Most cases of shingles heal without a risk of serious complications or long-term problems.
Can shingles in pregnancy be prevented?
If you have had chickenpox in the past, you have been infected with the VZV and there is no absolute way to prevent shingles. However, you cannot catch shingles from someone else who has shingles or chickenpox if you have had chickenpox or have immunity to the chickenpox virus. However, pregnant women who have not had chickenpox may catch chickenpox from someone with shingles or chickenpox. Chickenpox infection during pregnancy can be dangerous to the unborn baby, so it is important to avoid contact with people with shingles or chickenpox if you have not had the condition or the vaccine.
Children in the US today are typically vaccinated against the VZV (chickenpox vaccine). A vaccine to prevent shingles (Zostavax) is also available that reduces the incidence of shingles by about 50%, but the vaccine cannot be taken by pregnant women. Women who receive the Zostavax vaccine should wait at least 3 months before attempting pregnancy.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Medscape, Varicella-Zoster Virus.
"Shingles (Herpes Zoster)." CDC.gov. Updated Aug. 19, 2016.
Shingles and Pregnancy - Symptoms and Diagnosis
Please describe the symptoms that led to a diagnosis of shingles while you were pregnant.Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Treatment
How did you treat shingles pain and itching during your pregnancy?Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Prevention
How did you prevent the risk of shingles during your pregnancy?Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Experience
Please describe your experience with shingles during pregnancy.Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Antiviral Medication
If you were prescribed antiviral medication for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Pain Medication
If you were prescribed pain medication for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Antihistamines
If you were prescribed antihistamines for shingles during pregnancy, what was prescribed and how effective were they?Post
Shingles and Pregnancy - Complications
What complications did you experience with shingles during pregnancy?Post
Top Shingles and Pregnancy Related Articles
Aches, Pain, FeverAlthough a fever technically is any body temperature above the normal of 98.6 F (37 C), in practice, a person is usually not considered to have a significant fever until the temperature is above 100.4 F (38 C). Fever is part of the body's own disease-fighting arsenal; rising body temperatures apparently are capable of killing off many disease-producing organisms.
Birth DefectsBirth defects have many causes and currently, are the leading cause of death for infants in the first year of life. Some of the causes of birth defects include genetic or chromosome problems. Exposure of the mother to rubella or German measles during pregnancy, or using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. The treatment for birth defects depends upon the condition of the effected child.
Chickenpox (Varicella)Chickenpox (chicken pox) is a contagious childhood disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Symptoms have an incubation period of 14 to 16 days and include a couple days of mild fever, weakness, and red, raised rash that progresses to blisters that eventually burst and crust over. Complications include bacterial infection of the open sores, scarring, encephalitis, nerve palsies, and Reye's syndrome.
Is It Contagious QuizIs it contagious? Take this quiz to learn about contagious diseases, how contagious diseases are spread, and myths and facts about contagions.
DiarrheaDiarrhea is a change is the frequency and looseness of bowel movements. Symptoms associated with diarrhea are cramping, abdominal pain, and the sensation of rectal urgency. Causes of diarrhea include viral, bacterial, or parasite infection, gastroenteritis, food poisoning, and drugs. Absorbents and anti-motility medications are used to treat diarrhea.
GlaucomaGlaucoma is a common eye condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye rises because of slowed fluid drainage from the eye. If untreated, glaucoma may damage the optic nerve and other parts of the eye, causing the loss of vision or even blindness.
Pregnancy Planning (Preparing for Pregnancy)
Pregnancy planning is an important step in preparation for starting or expanding a family. Planning for a pregnancy includes taking prenatal vitamins, eating healthy for you and your baby, disease prevention (for both parents and baby) to prevent birth defects and infections, avoiding certain medications that may be harmful to your baby, how much weight gain is healthy exercise safety and pregnancy, travel during pregnancy.
RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
Take the Shingles QuizShingles falls within a well-known family of viruses that cause itching, burning, blisters, and pain. Take the Shingles Quiz to get the facts, causes, symptoms, and treatments for this itchy, painful condition.
Shingles PicturesAn acute infection caused by the herpes zoster virus, the same virus as causes chickenpox. See a picture of Shingles and learn more about the health topic.
StressStress occurs when forces from the outside world impinge on the individual. Stress is a normal part of life. However, over-stress, can be harmful. There is now speculation, as well as some evidence, that points to the abnormal stress responses as being involved in causing various diseases or conditions.
Stroke Symptoms and Treatment
A stroke is an interruption of the blood supply to part of the brain caused by either a blood clot (ischemic) or bleeding (hemorrhagic).
Symptoms of a stroke may include:
- double vision or vision loss,
- difficulty speaking or understanding speech.
A physical exam, imaging tests, neurological exam, and blood tests may be used to diagnose a stroke. Treatment may include administration of clot-busting drugs, supportive care, and in some instances, neurosurgery. The risk of stroke can be reduced by controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stopping smoking.