What is shingles? You may have seen ads for a vaccine against the shingles. Shingles is an infectious disease that awakens from those that have had the chickenpox probably as a child. It can be spread to other people who have NOT had the chickenpox. It is most commonly found in older adults and those in nursing homes.
Shingles can cause a lot of pain and blisters from a rash. Shingles is medically called Herpes Zoster and is not related to the sexually transmitted herpes. After an individual has had the chickenpox, the virus lives dormant in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body. Under certain instances, such as emotional stress, immune deficiency, or with cancer, the chickenpox virus reactivates and causes shingles. In most cases of shingles, however, a cause for the reactivation of the virus is never found. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk for the development of shingles, although it occurs most commonly in people over the age of 60. It has been estimated that there are up to 1,000,000 cases of shingles occur each year in the U.S.
What type of symptoms are associated with the Shingles?
1) Burning Pain
2) Sensitive Skin
3) Small Blisters – which will pop and ooze
4) Infection of Blisters can occur
5) Loss of Vision if the rash is on the face – definitely see your doctor if a rash is on your face
6) The Nervous System in rare causes can also be affected causing debilitating pain
Most treatments for shingles will consist of steroids and antiviral medications which should be started within 2 days of the symptoms.
It is contagious to those who have not had the chicken pox. Precautions must be taken not to spread this disease as chickenpox is a much more serious disease in an adult than in a child. Nursing homes and hospitals should take all precautions when dealing with a patient suffering from the shingles. One should take precautions on airborne transmission too. Patients with shingles should not be in same room as cancer patients or others with compromised immune systems. When the lesions are crusted over usually in 7-10 days is when the patient is no longer contagious.
There is a vaccine now available for people over the age of 60 called Zostavax. The CDC recommends anyone over the age of 60 to receive this vaccine against Shingles. It can be taken as early as age 50. It is given as a single shot dose. (It does not protect everyone.)