Shingles is the common name of herpes zoster, which is caused by the virus, varicella zoster, better known as the chicken pox. After the chicken pox rash fades, the virus remains inside the body only to reactive later as shingles. Shingles most commonly appears as a rash along one side of the face and body. Prior to rash appearance, there is usually a painful itching or tingling sensation. This can also be accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, or chills, or more severe symptoms include skin infection, scarring, and the possible decrease or loss of hearing and vision. Approximately 98% of U.S. adults are at risk of shingles due to their exposure to the virus when they had chicken pox. Amongst those needing senior care in Orlando, there are four groups of people with the highest risk of shingles: those over age 50, taking certain medications, with certain medical conditions, or undergoing cancer treatments.
Adults over age 50 frequently have comorbid conditions or multiple chronic conditions. Many comorbid conditions predispose people to infections such as diabetes and kidney dysfunction frequently causing urinary tract infections. In addition to comorbid conditions, aging results in a decrease in activity of the immune system causing more people to be prone to infections.
Certain medications can increase your risk for shingles, such as steroids and medications assigned after an organ transplant. Steroids are frequently used to treat rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis as well as manage flare-ups in ulcerative colitis patients. Frequently, steroids modify the immune response of an otherwise functioning immune system either by stimulating antibody formation or inhibiting white blood cell formation. This modification allows an opening for the awakening of the dormant shingles virus.
Certain medical conditions also increase the risk for shingles. These include diabetes, HIV, and cancer: particularly leukemia and lymphoma. This is due to the need to take immuno-suppressing drugs to weaken the cancer cells so they can be killed. With the immune system suppressed, the dormant shingles virus can be awakened.
The good news is that shingles can be prevented with a vaccine that has been shown safe and effective. The CDC recommends the vaccine for anyone 60 years old and older, and the vaccine can reduce the risk of contracting shingles by half and the risk for continued pain by two-thirds. The vaccine can also be given six to 12 months after having shingles to prevent reoccurrence of the disease. This is especially important for loved ones in senior care in Orlando so that they may do their best to maintain their quality of life. If you or a loved one have been impacted by shingles, aging, or other medical issues, please call BrightStar Care at 1-866-618-7827 for a complimentary in-home assessment.