If someone ever created a list of the most unusual names for diseases, the shingles virus would certainly top that list. The very name of the disease brings to mind an image of a person with layers of roofing materials growing out of his skin. In actuality, shingles, also known as the herpes zoster virus, is a very painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox in younger people. If you’ve ever had the chickenpox, unfortunately you are now at risk for also contracting shingles. The risk of developing shingles increases with age; as many as half of all adults are diagnosed with the shingles virus by age 80.
To see what the shingles virus really looks like, take a look at this page of photos from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. It is estimated that there are one million instances of shingles diagnosed in the U.S. each year. For that reason, it’s highly recommended by the CDC that all adults age 60 and over receive the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether or not they previously contracted chickenpox. Viewing the photos on the CDC website is one way to encourage people to get a shingles vaccine to prevent this unsightly and often quite painful disease.
How do you know if someone has shingles? An older adult may have shingles if he or she developed chickenpox as a child, young adult, or at any time in the past, and now is displaying a rash of liquid-filled blisters on the skin. Usually these blisters appear on one side of the body only, but at times they can be distributed in patches or form a continuous band. The rash ranges from irritating or itchy to extremely painful and typically lasts up to 30 days. For most people, the rash’s pain subsides a bit as healing begins. Additional symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea and chills.
Other complications can arise from having had the shingles virus as well. For example, shingles that occurs on the face could affect the person’s eyes and vision. The most common complication of shingles is called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is a condition of persistent, lingering pain in the area where the rash used to be, and can last as long as weeks, months, and sometimes even years after the rash is gone.
Shingles cannot be passed on to another person; however, someone with active shingles can transmit the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox, resulting in that person coming down with the chickenpox virus. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters, not through sneezing or coughing, and a person is not contagious before the blisters appear or after the blisters have developed crusts.
At Hillendale Home Care, we can help to encourage and facilitate proper vaccinations as a part of our California home care services. To learn more or to schedule a free in-home assessment, contact us online or call us at 925-933-8181.