- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
The dangers of contracting chickenpox as an adult
As with many childhood illnesses, contracting chickenpox in the adult years would be more dangerous than when it is contracted during the childhood. Although chicken pox is not considered a fatal illness or reaches even close to being life threatening in most instances, the amount of discomfort and the rate of complications have shown to be much higher when the adults contract the disease.
According to health statistics, although adult chickenpox only contributes to 5% of all cases of chickenpox, it contributes to almost 55% of deaths and 33% of all hospitalizations due to its complications. Therefore, the disproportionate figures do point towards the danger of contracting chickenpox in the adult years although when compared to some of the other serious illnesses, numbers representing the above figures would be relatively low.
Following is a brief description of the dangers or the complications that are expected of an adult suffering from chickenpox. However, these complications can also take place among the children who suffers from the same although the intensity and the rate of complications are relatively low.
Bacterial skin infections
One of the commonest complications following chickenpox in adults is the occurrence of secondary bacterial infections of the blisters that form on the skin. Staphylococcus aureus and streptococcus pyogenes are the two organisms, which are likely to cause such an infection in most instances. While most such infections are superficial, there is a possibility of the same bacteria invading the blood stream and giving rise to a much worse infection known as a ‘bacteremia’. The danger of a bacteremia of any type would be its ability to give rise to many other illnesses such as osteomyelitis (infections of the joints and bones), bacterial pneumonia, sepsis, shock, meningitis and sometimes even death.
Meningoencephalitis and acute cerebellar ataxia are the two of the commonest neurological complications that can take place following contracting chickenpox. The signs pertaining to these two manifestations may include, seizures, irritability, difficulty in speech, imbalance and coordination problems, headaches, neck pain and stiffness, vision abnormalities, difficulty in walking…etc.
As described earlier, when the virus causing the chickenpox spreads to the lungs through the blood stream, it can give rise to a complication known as the vericella pneumonia. According to statistics, around 1 in 400 adults who suffer from chickenpox could develop this complication while it has been recognized as a leading cause of morbidity and mortality following chickenpox infection in adults.
It is also known that chickenpox infection can give rise to complications in the liver and such complications, which include transient hepatitis and an inflammation of the liver cells, may cause a bleeding tendency due to the disruption taking place in the clotting mechanism.
In addition to the above complications and dangers, adults who contract chickenpox may also be at risk of developing secondary infections as their immune system can be suppressed to ineffective levels during the chickenpox infection.