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Eczema vs Shingles

Have you been seeing a lot of ads or articles about shingles lately? I saw an article in Lianhe Zaobao dated 27 June 2023, the headline stated: Weakened immune systems after COVID-19 infection increases the risk of getting shingles. As a skincare professional, I was curious to know why and wanted to share some information about how to differentiate between shingles and eczema. As a child, I remember hearing adults talk about how dangerous shingles could be, referring to it as the "creeping snake" that could lead to death if it grew around your chest, neck, or tummy. This always frightened me, and I hadn't heard much about Shingles until GSK promoted its vaccine ‘Shingrix’ recently. 

In this blog, we'll explore the differences between eczema and shingles and how to treat them.

Eczema and shingles are two different skin conditions that can be confusing to differentiate. They share similar symptoms, such as redness, itching, and blisters, which makes it difficult to determine which one is affecting an individual. 

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects around 10% of the population. It often starts in childhood and can persist into adulthood. Eczema can be caused by various factors such as genetics, environmental factors, or a weakened immune system. The condition causes patches of dry, itchy, and red skin that can be painful and inflamed. Eczema can affect any part of the body but is most common on the hands, arms, and legs. People with eczema have a higher risk of developing other allergic conditions such as asthma and hay fever.

On the other hand, shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is also responsible for causing chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the nervous system. However, the virus can become reactivated later in life, causing shingles. The symptoms of shingles include a painful rash that can develop anywhere on the body but is most commonly seen on one side of the torso. The rash usually appears as blisters that scab over in a few days. Shingles can also cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue.

The symptoms of eczema and shingles may appear similar, but there are a few key differences that can help differentiate between the two conditions. Firstly, eczema is not contagious, while shingles can be. This means that people with eczema can safely interact with others without the risk of infecting them, but people with shingles should avoid contact with others to prevent the spread of the virus.

Secondly, eczema is a chronic condition that can last for years, while shingles typically last for two to four weeks. Eczema flares up periodically, and symptoms can be managed with proper treatment and self-care, whereas shingles usually clear up on its own with time, but antiviral medications may be prescribed to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.

Thirdly, eczema usually appears as dry, itchy patches of skin, while shingles typically manifest as a painful rash with blisters. Eczema can cause the skin to become scaly and rough, while shingles can cause the skin to blister and scab over.

Lastly, the causes of eczema and shingles differ. Eczema is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, while shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. People with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or taking immunosuppressive drugs, are at a higher risk of developing shingles.

In terms of treatment, the approach to managing eczema and shingles also differs. Treatment for eczema includes keeping the skin moisturized, avoiding triggers such as certain foods or irritants, and using topical creams and ointments to reduce inflammation and itchiness. In severe cases, oral medications or light therapy may be prescribed. In contrast, the treatment for shingles involves antiviral medications to reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms, as well as pain relievers and topical creams to alleviate discomfort. It is essential to seek medical attention promptly if you suspect you have shingles, as antiviral medication is most effective when started within 72 hours of the rash appearing.

In conclusion, eczema and shingles are two distinct skin conditions


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