Red Bluff, California
Red Bluff Family Doctors

Are You At Risk For Shingles?

Shingles Symptoms

Had Chickenpox? You Might Be at Risk for Shingles.

If you’re an older adult, your childhood experience with chickenpox may be a distant memory. The virus that causes chickenpox, however, remains dormant in the body and can reactivate years later, causing a painful condition known as shingles.

Shingles, caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV), affects an estimated 1 million Americans each year. Almost 1 out of every 3 of us who have had chickenpox will develop the condition. As we age, our risk of getting it increases. Adults 60 years and older account for about half of all reported cases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), people with shingles experience the following symptoms:

Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks.

Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears.

Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash. Shingles can affect the eye and cause loss of vision.

Shingles Symptoms

Other symptoms of shingles can include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

Complications from shingles can include a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which causes severe pain in areas where the shingles rash occurred (even after it has cleared up). PHN usually resolves within a few weeks or months, but may last for years. On rare occasions, shingles may also lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death.

Shingles, itself, is not infectious. However, someone with a shingles rash in the blister-phase may spread the varicella zoster virus to another individual. During that phase, it’s important to keep the rash covered, avoid touching it, wash your hands often, and avoid contact with others (especially those at risk such as pregnant women who don’t already have the virus, low birth weight infants, and people with weakened immune systems).

Shingles can be treated with antiviral medicines that may shorten the length or reduce the severity of the illness. The efficacy of those medications, however, depends on the patient starting them as soon as the rash appears. Pain medicines may also be used to help relieve pain. Wet compresses, calamine lotion and colloidal oatmeal baths may help with itching.

Experts agree that the best way to reduce the risk of getting shingles is to get vaccinated. According to the CDC:

Shingles vaccine (Zostavax®) reduces the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain from post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) caused shingles. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends shingles vaccine for people aged 60 years and older. Even people who have had shingles can receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease.

Your risk for developing shingles increases as you get older. The Shingles Prevention Study found that shingles vaccine significantly reduced disease people aged in 60 years and older.

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Lassen Medical Clinic, Red Bluff
2450 Sister Mary Columba Drive
Red Bluff, CA 96080
Phone: 530-527-0414

Lassen Medical Clinic, Cottonwood
20833 Long Branch Drive
Cottonwood, CA 96022
Phone: 530-347-3418

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