Every year 600,000 to one million Americans are diagnosed with shingles, also known as herpes zoster. If you had chicken pox as a child, you are at risk of developing shingles later in life. After chicken pox runs its course, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant. As you grow older, or if you have lymphoma or AIDS, the virus can become reactivated and shingles results. Approximately one in five adults experiences shingles, usually after age fifty.
The first sign of shingles is usually a tingling feeling, itchiness, or stabbing pain on the skin. A few days later a rash appears on the trunk or face. The rash develops into fluid-filled blisters, which dry out and crust over within several days. Symptoms can range from mild itching to extreme and intense pain. Some seniors also get flu-like symptoms.
Although shingles usually heals entirely within a month, complications can occur. One potential complication is an infection of your cornea, which can cause temporary or permanent blindness. If a rash develops anywhere near your eye, see a doctor immediately. Postherpetic neuralgia, skin sensitive to the slightest touch after blisters have cleared, is a common complication affecting half of older people.
If you feel symptoms of shingles, such as skin pain, burning, tingling or itching in a localized area, contact your doctor immediately. Prompt treatment can shorten your infection and decrease your chances of complications. Antiviral drugs are widely used for to treat herpes zoster. Your doctor may also recommend cool wet compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.