Signs And Symptoms Of Internal Shingles

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Shingles commonly present as blisters or a rash only on one side of the body and are caused by a virus.

Like other viral infections such as chickenpox or Varicella Zoster Virus, shingles are contagious and the viral infection can be spread through direct contact with the fluid that is emitted by the blisters.

Shingles develop from the dormant chickenpox virus once the body has evidently recovered. The virus remains in the body’s nervous system eternally and the reason that it develops into shingles is still unknown, however, there are certain methods to help get rid of it.

What Causes Internal Shingles?

Varicella-zoster virus, which is the chickenpox causing bacteria is the same virus that causes shingles.

After suffering from chickenpox, the virus could settle in some body tissues and nerves, and after some years, the virus can react and manifest itself as shingles.

In most cases, it appears on the skin along the nerve path where it was harbored.

And if the reactivation is severe, the virus could affect the internal organs, resulting in internal or systemic shingles.

There is no clear cut between internal and external shingles causes.

Shingles whether internal or external occur when the VZV reactivates. Varicella-Zoster Virus initialized as VZV is the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Some scientists say that it’s only those who have contacted chickenpox in life who may later contact shingles. As a matter of fact, initial exposure to the varicella virus especially as a child or during the adolescent stage leads to the development of varicella later in life.

After the season of chickenpox resolves, the virus is known to remain dominant in the body until later in life when it reappears causing shingles. It is known that the virus remains in the nervous system in certain nerve cells especially those located in the spine.

The virus may reactivate later in life and travel to other parts of the body to cause shingles.

However, the reason and the mechanism through which the virus locomote from the nerve cells in the spine to other parts of the body is unclear. The reason for shingles is unclear but some doctors say that it may be due to lowered immunity responses as you grow old.

Shingles, both internal and external, are very common in older adults than youngsters and children since they are believed to have a weaker immunity.

Most people confuse VZV with the virus that causes cold sores or genital herpes.

The reality of the matter is that the virus that causes chickenpox and leads to shingles is not the same virus that causes genital herpes or cold sores. 

Symptoms of internal Shingles may include:

  • Abdominal pain and diarrhea.
  • Photophobia or a sensitivity to light may also be present.
  • Extreme headaches that do not dissipate easily.
  • Flu-like symptoms such as aches and pains in the joints and muscles are common but present without the fever that is normally associated with the influenza virus although chills may be present.
  • Swelling or inflammation of the Lymph nodes.
    These nodes are located in the neck, under the arms and in the groin and form part of the body’s defense system.
    The swelling is a reaction to the internal infection and is one of the major diagnostic symptoms of internal Shingles.
    This is however another symptom that could be present during the flu or due to other types of infections in the body.
  • Encephalitis which is the swelling of the brain is another significant symptom of internal Shingles.This is a very serious symptom and could be fatal and immediate treatment should be sought.It can be difficult to diagnose encephalitis as the symptom is internal but is normally indicated by severe headaches.It can however be difficult to differentiate between a normal headache and one that is a result of the swelling of the brain tissue.This symptom is a direct result of the Shingles attacking the nervous system specifically in the brain resulting in the inflammation and swelling and causing nerve damage as well as the headaches associated with internal Shingles.
  • Painful blisters inside the mouth may also signify internal Shingles.
    The pain is exacerbated by eating or drinking making it difficult to consume food and beverages.
    The blisters can be confused with regular oral sores but can also result in depression and other mental or emotional disorders due to the pain and inability to eat.

Besides the above-mentioned symptoms, a majority of symptoms of internal shingles without a rash are based on the body system affected, and they can include the brain, liver, eyes, lungs, and the nervous system.

Internal shingles can result in symptoms like cough, fever, persistent pain, headache, and abdominal pain.

When shingles attack the internal organs, it becomes a serious complication that needs immediate medical attention.

Internal shingles have unique symptoms that require close looking to be sure they are a result of VZV virus invasion.

Internal shingles have several symptoms that match the ones on the skin as a result of external shingles.

They include muscle pains, chills, severe pains, itching or a sensation of burn on the part affected, numbness and tingling, and also swelling of lymph nodes.

The other thing to note is that the above symptoms depend on the body organ that is affected by the virus.

Some of the most common body parts that are likely to be affected by the virus include the eyes, brain, liver, ear, and nervous system.

After the infection, you are likely to experience severe pains in the affected organs, abdominal pains, cough, and persistent headaches.

Although most doctors believe that external shingles are not a source of rapid medical emergencies, when shingles affect internal organs it is a cause of worry and you should get treatment early enough. 

Are shingles contagious?

If you’re not immune to the chickenpox virus and happen to interact with a person fighting external shingles, then you’re likely to contact the varicella-zoster virus.

The virus is contagious either through direct contact with the open sore from an infected person.

Scientists have proven that once a person contacts the varicella virus, they are likely to, first of all, develop chickenpox and maybe later develop shingles.

For some people especially those with weak immune systems or those fighting other health problems, chickenpox can be dangerous.

You should greatly avoid direct contact with someone who has already developed shingles.

You should as well avoid physical contact in case someone has blisters on the skin and hasn’t yet been vaccinated for chickenpox.

Those at risk are:

  • Pregnant women
  • Newborns 
  • Those with weak immune systems

How to cure Internal Shingles

Dealing with shingles can be overwhelming and hard sometimes.

Shingles are a viral nerve infection that can either affect your skin internally or externally. Although the most popular instances of shingles develop externally, they can also spread to internal organs.

Shingles that occur internally without a rash are referred to as internal shingles. According to statistics, over 33 percent of people in the US will develop shingles at least once in their lifetime.

The good thing about this disease also known as herpes zoster is that they can go away on their own after 2-4 weeks.

The fact that the infection can internally spread to other organs in the body means that the infection can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications if left untreated.

External shingles are very painful and cause blisters and rashes on the skin.

They can become more than a skin infection if left for a long time without treatment. Internal shingles or systematic shingles lead to unique symptoms and the complication can extend beyond the known symptoms. 

Diagnosis And Treatment Of Internal Shingles

The thing that we should familiarize ourselves with here is how internal shingles are diagnosed before the doctor starts on the treatment and medication.

Doctors will naturally appraisal the symptoms and make up the mind whether you need more diagnosis.

The doctor is likely to deduce internal shingles if your symptoms involve more than the common skin symptoms.

They are likely to diagnose some of the organs to get a clear cut on where the virus has feasted.

Doctors may perform direct fluorescence antibody stain, virus culture, and polymerase chain reaction to detect the existence of the virus on the body.

Treatment Of Internal Shingles

Although shingles are caused by a viral infection, there are several antiviral medications available by prescription.

What this means is that you have to see the doctor as soon as you detect alarming symptoms. If treated early enough, the condition can be corrected and future risks of complications solved.

The most common medication for shingles includes Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir.

The treatment all depends on the location and the severity of the infection. Anti-inflammation medication such as Tylenol can help solve inflammation. In case you are encountering severe pain, your doctor may prescribe pain medication to ease the pain.

At home, you can supplement standard treatment with some remedies. You can use cool compresses, ointment baths, and calamine lotion to ease itching. Loose clothing will also help you ease the pain of external shingles and also decrease irritation and outbreak on the side of the chest.

Eating, drinking, or even applying vitamin E supplements can heal skin problems.

Vitamin B complex can strengthen the nervous system to reduce nerve pain. Eating Flaxseed powder 2x at least twice a day can speed up the healing process.

Although internal shingles can heal on their own, medication is a must to ensure the virus doesn’t cause long-term damage to the organs.

Medication is also needed to prevent serious complications and manage symptoms.

In addition to the medications, patients are advised by the doctor to rest and do relaxation techniques like listening to music and playing computer games to distract their concentration from the pain.

Over the counter, anti-itch medications can manage itching and other symptoms.

You can as well take cool baths or use cold and wet compresses on the blistered areas in case you have external shingles. 

Other methods are in detail below.

Internal Shingles Treatment

Although the symptoms of external Shingles can be uncomfortable and unsightly, they are not life-threatening.

On the other hand, the symptoms of internal can be fatal due to the effect on the inside of the body, especially the nerves.

It is therefore important to get treated for internal Shingles as soon as possible.

Common Treatments Include:

Prescription Medication

Pain medication may be prescribed to alleviate the discomfort.

Oral prescription medications that treat the symptoms and cause of internal shingles are the most common treatment.

More often than not, these medications are steroidal in nature.

However, some form of antidepressant may also be prescribed by a doctor to counteract the emotional symptoms that are associated with the disease.


If internal Shingles do present in a rash, a topical ointment or lotion can be used directly on the area to keep the blisters moist and minimize discomfort.

Shingles Diet

Foods to Avoid:

  • Foods with Arginine
  • Processed Foods
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Alcohol and Caffeine
  • Gelatin

Foods to Add:

  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Garlic
  • Fish and Fowl
  • Seaweed
  • Whole Grains

What You Should Know About Internal Shingles Without Rash

Singles, a common and painful infection that causes rashes and blisters on the skin could also be an internal problem when it attacks the nerves.

When it does not affect the skin, it is known as internal shingles without a rash and it has unique symptoms that could also involve different body systems.

What Could Increase Your Chances of Suffering From Shingles?

Most of the risk factors of internal shingles are similar to those shingles on the skin, and they include:

  • A weak immune system. Ailments and conditions like organ transplants, HIV/AIDS and different autoimmune conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or lupus could increase your risk of suffering from internal shingles.
  • Cancer treatment. Cancer, besides chemotherapy and radiation, weakens the immune system and it consequently makes one susceptible to internal shingles.
  • Old age. While shingles could occur in people at any stage in their life, it is more common in the elderly. In fact, more than half of the reported cases are usually among people who are older than 60 years.
  • Taking particular medications. Drugs that treat an autoimmune disease or that reduce your chances of rejecting organ transplant could increase your chances of suffering from shingles since they work by suppressing the immune system. The extended use of steroids could also make you susceptible to shingles.

Common Complications of Internal Shingles

Those people with weak immune systems are likely to develop some serious complications when fighting internal shingles.

Below are some of the most common complications that a patient is likely to encounter.

Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN)

Most of the patients continue to experience nerve pain and intense itching in the area where the infection is dominant. This is what is referred to as PHN.

It is the most common complication that people are likely to experience after they have developed signs of internal shingles.

The complication develops in over 87 percent of all the patients. It can persist for months if not taken care of soon enough. It may also continue after all the other symptoms of the infection have cleared.

The pains can be severe and they can be consistent or intermittent.

Very slight changes in temperatures or very light touches are likely to trigger severe pains.

The complication can interfere with daily life and can make it difficult for someone to eat and continue with his or her daily activities.

They can cause insomnia, anxiety, depression, or even significant weight loss. 

Eye Complications (Ophthalmic Shingles)

More than 20 percent of all internal shingles cases tend to affect the facial nerves, including the eyes.

When internal shingles occur, the infection could result in injury of the cornea in addition to inflammation in or around the eye.

In case they turn to develop on the face, they are more likely to affect the eyes.

Some of the most common effects on your eyes include:

  • Inflammation
  • Redness and discharge
  • Permanent scarring in the eye
  • Pressure and vision problems.

What this means is that you should take immediate actions when blisters occur on the eyes to avoid persistent complications.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome

If the infection extends beyond the hearing system and affects it significantly, the patient is likely to develop Ramsey Hunt syndrome.

This syndrome leads to hearing or balance problems. You may also get some severe headaches, dizziness, and paralysis on the face.

Although a significant number of people with Ramsey Hunt Syndrome get full recovery when they receive antiviral medication within 7 hours, some of them can suffer mild hearing problems and other complications.

This syndrome occurs when the shingles-causing virus reactivates within one of the nerves responsible for hearing.

This could result in general facial pain, facial paralysis, and hearing loss. It could also cause severe pain in the ears.

A great treatment is to apply a disinfected cloth that has been soaked in cold milk to the affected area.

This will help heal the rash and reduce the discomfort. It is important to note that pain and discomfort may still be present after the rash has disappeared.

This is due to the internal Shingles attacking the nerve endings.

 Capsaicin has been found to be effective in alleviating this pain and discomfort. Anti-viral drugs may also be prescribed to reduce the effect of the virus on the system.

Consulting a medical doctor for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible is absolutely essential.

If the virus is not cured within 48 hours, it will spread faster and become more dangerous to your general health, and could be fatal.

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