With flu season in full swing, many adults are visiting their health care providers to discuss ways to stay healthy. Have you thought about other potentially serious diseases you may be at risk for as an adult?
Shingles, the common name for herpes zoster, is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has chickenpox, the virus never leaves the body. At some point later in life, quite unexpectedly, this virus can reactivate and erupt as shingles – a red blistering rash that can be very painful.
“People with shingles have described the pain as sharp, stabbing, shooting, burning, throbbing and itchy,” says Dr. Adriana Perez, Ph.D., ANP-BC, FAAN, assistant professor and Southwest Borderlands scholar at Arizona State University and co-director at the Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. “The first symptoms of shingles are often felt, but may not be seen, and may initially include itching, tingling or burning in a specific area on one side of the face or body.”
Any person who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles, and 98 percent of adults in the U.S. have had chickenpox. The shingles rash can last up to 30 days and appears most commonly on a single side of the torso, but can appear anywhere on the body – even the face.
Perez says, “A person’s risk for shingles increases as they get older. Because immune systems can weaken as people age, it becomes easier for shingles to break through the body’s defenses.”
There’s no way to predict if or when someone will get shingles, or how severe the case could be. For most healthy people, after the shingles rash heals, the pain and itch subside, and the blisters leave without a trace, but in some cases, even after the rash heals, there can be permanent scarring.
There are approximately one million cases of shingles each year in the U.S., and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three people will get shingles during their lifetime.
Don’t wait until you or a loved one get shingles. Ask your doctor today about the risk, and for more information visit www.shinglesinfo.com.
This information is provided by Merck.