Anyone who has had chickenpox as a child is at risk for a shingles outbreak after age 60. For a long time, shingles was thought of as an older person’s disease. A closer look at statistics reveals an increase in cases affecting younger adults. Researchers are developing theories on why this disease is attacking more people under the age of 50.
The Sleeping Virus
The varicella zoster virus is responsible for shingles attacks. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an episode of chickenpox, some of the virus retreats into the body’s nervous system, laying dormant in the brain or spinal column.
Though it is not completely clear what brings on an outbreak, it is more likely to occur in older individuals and those who have a weakened immune system. People taking medications that lower resistance, cancer patients and HIV/AIDS patients are at risk. Stress also appears to be a factor.
It is a myth that shingles does not attack the young. Healthy children can get it as well as younger adults. Although, adults older than 50 are generally more likely to get shingles than younger people. Each year, over one million cases are diagnosed. At some point in their lives, the disease will have plagued about half the people who reach 85.
Minimize Effects with Vaccination or Early Treatment
Ideally, you should get a vaccination to prevent shingles. Zostavax has been approved for people over the age of 50. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people 60 and over get the vaccine because the risk for the disease and complications peaks for this age group.
Shingles can have lasting and occasionally devastating effects for some individuals. About 40% of people who experience an episode of shingles complain of burning or shooting pain for months, sometimes years after the outbreak.
It is important to get immediate treatment if you notice symptoms. You may feel pain, itching or tingling on one side of the body or face before the telltale rash appears. An antiviral medicine taken in the first three days from the appearance of the rash can ease the pain. It may also help reduce the duration of the disease.
We can help with pain management from a shingles outbreak at Allied Pain & Spine Institute. If you are suffering with the discomfort from shingles, call our office today to schedule an appointment.
Posted on behalf of Dr. James Petros, Allied Pain & Spine Institute