Shingles and the Aging Adult



Who would have thought that the chickenpox you had when you were a child would come back to haunt you once again as an adult? The infection herpes zoster or more commonly called shingles, is a viral infection of the nerve roots. Shingles occur in older adults and affect one side of your body with a rash. After you have chickenpox the virus lies dormant in your body for years and for some people forever. At some point, this virus is sparked back to life from either stress, injury, or a life changing event, causing the virus to turn into shingles.

The risk for getting shingles is pretty great considering over 90 percent of the public has had chickenpox when they were a kid. Over 1 million people will develop and suffer from shingles this year alone. While the disease is not contagious, people with shingles have been known to spread the chickenpox virus to uninfected children and people.

Symptoms for shingles start off pretty mild and get progressively worse. Usually a mild headache occurs and you may be sensitive to light. You may feel hot, but not have a fever. Then after a few days, the rash will present itself with itching or a mild pain in some areas. At this time, a rash band will appear on one side of your face or body. As it gets worse, the rash will blister, then fill will fluid and crust over. Other possible symptoms include feeling dizzy or disoriented and having problems with vision.

No amount of treatment or medical supplies can help people with the pain they must endure from this virus. Shingles may only last for a short month or so, but the pain can have longing effects for months and even years. After the rash has subsided, the lasting pain can turn into a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). This complication of the virus affects the nerve fibers and skin causing extreme pain for the individual. Along with the pain, people have been known to have emotional breakdowns and become irritable.

Medical news stories suggest that people over a certain age get vaccinated for shingles now. Zostavax or the shingles vaccine, contains a weakened chickenpox virus designed to help stimulate your immune system and combat the shingles virus. The accuracy of the vaccination may only be about 50 percent, but if you are over the age of 60 it is worth a shot.

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