Shingles on the scalp

When shingles on the scalp occur, in other words Chicken pox on scalp or Herpes Zoster on scalp, then you can experience several symptoms such as headache and weakness on one side of the face. This could make that side of the face look droopy. Shingles on the scalp can be confused with scalp folliculitis but this is not the same. Because the way you treat Scalp folliculitis differs from treating shingles in scalp.

In this article you will read everything you need to know about shingles of the scalp. The following topics will be explained: 

  • What does shingles on the scalp look like? 
  • What does shingles feel like? 
  • Can you get shingles on your scalp? 
  • Is shingles on the scalp contagious 
  • Is shingles on the scalp dangerous? 
  • Can shingles on the scalp cause hair loss? 
  • Can shingles on the scalp cause headaches? 
  • Can shingles on the head cause a stroke? 
  • Can shingles cause scalp tenderness? 
  • What to do for shingles on the scalp? 
  • What can be mistaken for shingles on the scalp? 


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What does shingles on the scalp look like? 

Scalp shingles pictures can be found all over the internet. Shingles can form in the neck, on the forehead and on the scalp. A symptom that often occurs is a weakness at one side of the face. This weakness can cause that side of the face to look droopy. There is a possibility that this symptom will go away after several months. But it is more advisable to use a shingles scalp treatment to get rid of this symptom.

What does shingles feel like? 

Shingles can feel like a localised brand of pain in the affected area. The pain can be a constant burning sensation and its intensity can vary from mild to severe. You may feel sharp stabbing pains from time to time, and the affected area of skin will usually be tender. 

Can you get shingles on your scalp? 

Shingles of the scalp may appear as a rash at one side of your scalp. This rash could possibly be painful in the area around your ears or eyes. One of the signs of shingles on scalp is the appearance of blisters on the scalp. The shingles blisters on scalp are usually found in a line, often extending from the back or side around to the belly. The chicken pox blisters on scalp do usually not cross the midline of the body.

Is shingles on the scalp contagious? 

You can not get shingles in scalp from someone else. However, if you have never had chicken pox on scalp, it is possible that you got it from close contact with someone who has hair shingles on scalp. This is because the chicken pox blisters on scalp contain the Herpes Zoster virus. 

If you have chickenpox, Herpes Zoster on scalp then you should make sure that no one who does not have chickenpox comes in contact with your chicken pox blisters on scalp, until the blisters are completely dry. Once your shingles blisters on scalp are crusted over, they are no longer contagious.

Is shingles on the scalp dangerous? 

Shingles on scalp pain can sometimes affect a person’s quality of life. This is because chicken pox can lead to various symptoms and much irritation. Shingles on scalp pain will heal in 3 to 5 weeks normally and the rash will heal in 1 to 3 weeks. When shingles occur on the head or scalp, the symptoms usually go away eventually, but it can take many months.  
If the virus damages nerves, you may experience even more pain, numbness or tingling for months or even years after the rash is healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia and is a chronic condition that can occur after a scalp shingles outbreak in people over 50 years old. 

 Shingles on scalp without rash are called zoster sine herpete. In this case you often experience a shingles itchy scalp. Sensation will often be concentrated on the face, neck, at one side of the body, the torso, or the eyes. In cases where shingles without the rash appear, a laboratory test usually will be necessary to determine if there is any presence of the varicella zoster virus in the body.

In worst case scenario shingles on scalp symptoms can be serious complications, including vision loss, pneumonia, hearing problems, brain inflammation or death.

Can shingles on the scalp cause hair loss? 

Shingles on the scalp hair loss can appear when you are scratching or combing to hard during an outbreak. This can happen because you suffer from itching or irritation on your scalp and is understandable but not wise. Scratching can also lead to a condition called cicatricial alopecia or scarring alopecia. The hair loss occurs because the shingles destroy cells in hair follicles which are responsible for new hair growth. Once you destroy those cells, the balding is permanent. 

Therefore, we recommend as soon as you experience hair loss due to persisting itching or irritation to take a treatment for a healthy scalp. Which can significantly reduce the itching and irritation and ensure that your scalp becomes calmer. However, this does not mean it is a chicken pox on scalp treatment. But it can ease some of the symptoms and help your scalp to become healthy again. 

Can shingles on the scalp cause headaches? 

Treating shingles can sometimes be difficult because simple pressure from washing or brushing could easily lead to burning scalp shingles and broken and bleeding blisters. This causes pain on the scalp but in rare cases shingles of the scalp can spread into the brain or spinal cord and cause some serious complications, such as stroke or meningitis (an infection of the membranes outside the brain and spinal cord).

Can shingles on the head cause a stroke? 

According to several experts after the acute infection of chicken pox on scalp subsides, there is an increased risk of stroke. A new study has found a potential mechanism that links shingles and stroke which are prothrombotic and proinflammatory exosomes. Other studies have shown that an increased risk of stroke can last for up to 1 year after the shingles on scalp symptoms have dissipated.  

Can shingles cause scalp tenderness? 

When Chickenpox gave you mild shingles on scalp there is always a chance that it will come back some day. In a more severe scenario, it can leave you with shingles scalp tenderness. The tenderness can become one of the early sings of shingles on scalp when it has come back. You might feel itching and pain on your scalp because it can be incredibly sensitive for even the slightest pressure. That can even make using a brush or comb a terrible idea. You might experience an urge to scratch but we don’t recommend that because than you might lose some of your hairs.

What to do for shingles on the scalp? 

To treat your scalp shingles, you can use a shingles scalp treatment. Online you might even find a shingles scalp shampoo that could ease some of your symptoms. We recommend you use specific scalp treatments and hair care techniques to relieve yourself from irritation, itching and impurities on your scalp. Some tips are summoned below:

  • Apply cool water and cold compresses to the part of your scalp affected by scalp shingles. 
  • Avoid using harsh soaps when washing your hair. Instead, find a gentle exfoliating shampoo that could ease your scalp with natural oils and anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • When washing your hair, use warm water but never very hot. You can also apply a wet compress to the rash and blisters. 
  • The AAD recommends you soak a clean washcloth in cold water and place the cloth on top of the affected area several times a day. Leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Avoid scrubbing or scratching when washing your hair. Use gentle motions with your fingertips not with the nails. Also, pat your hair dry with a towel after washing rather than rubbing it dry.
  • Comb your hair carefully, try not to scrape your rash. 
  • Avoid hair spray, pomade, mousse, or other hair care products.

What can be mistaken for shingles on the scalp? 

As with Herpes Zoster on scalp, Psoriasis also forms red patches on the skin. One type of psoriasis called pustular can lead to the development of blisters on the scalp. Areas affected by psoriasis often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Fortunately, there are treatments for a healthy scalp that can ease some Psoriasis symptoms and combat dandruff, flakes and itching of the scalp. 

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