Are you at risk of getting Shingles?
Shingles is a painful skin infection caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same herpes virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue and will reactivate as shingles in about 20 percent of people who’ve had chickenpox. Shingles is more common in people over 50 and those with a weakened immune system because of illness, injury, stress, certain medications and other factors.
Shingles first appears as a red rash in a band or small area typically on one side of the body or face with accompanying burning, shooting, tingling or itching pain. Some people develop shingles pain without a rash and/or experience a headache, fever, chills and general achiness. A cluster of small blisters then appears and fills with fluid before crusting over. Shingles blisters take two to four weeks to heal, and they can leave scars. After the blisters heal, shingles pain can linger for months or even years. Most people who get shingles heal fully and will not get shingles again.
Shingles does not cause shingles in another person, but the fluid from shingles blisters is contagious and can cause chickenpox in anyone who has not had chickenpox or who has never been vaccinated for chickenpox. Several drugs are used to treat the pain and symptoms of shingles including pain medications, antiviral drugs, nerve blockers, skin treatments and anesthetic skin patches. Family and professional caregivers can help seniors detect and treat shingles outbreaks, plus prevent shingles sores from getting infected and ensure the elderly take medications as directed.
Although shingles is unpredictable and troublesome, an FDA-approved shingles vaccine is now available in a one-dose vaccination and recommended for anyone over age 60. The vaccine helps reduce the likelihood of developing shingles and eases shingles neurologic pain and speeds healing of the rash.
Have you or an aging loved one experienced shingles? If so, what advice would you like to offer?