What Are Shingles and Who is Most Susceptible?
What are Shingles?
I was shocked when a cousin of mine, in her 80s, told me she had shingles. First of all, I wasn’t sure what that meant and then upon research, articles claimed that it usually affected people age 80 and over. But why should that be? And why should people who have never had chicken pox not be susceptible to shingles?
What are shingles? Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection of the nerve roots. It is a painful outbreak of a rash or blisters caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and usually occurs on one side of the body.
What is the connection to chicken pox?
Further, this is the same virus that causes chicken pox - and can be caused by an overtaxed immune system. It occurs when the virus that causes chickenpox starts up again in your body. After you get better from chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in your nerve roots. Sometimes it stays dormant but other times it 'wakes up' - and no one is sure why. It is believed that it can be triggered by disease, stress, medications, and weakening of the immune system.
In other words chicken pox and shingles are the same thing. Chicken pox being the initial infection.
I know that my cousin had had a stressful day and perhaps she had been under stress for quite awhile. She was also on a medication. Although the fact that stress is a killer has been denied almost forever, we do know now for sure that stress does affect our immune systems.
How does it happen?
In the case of shingles, remnants from chicken pox cling to the nerve fibers that run from our sensory nerve cells to the skin. Shingles will then attack when the body is most vulnerable for reasons mentioned above; also when you are recovering from the flu or a cold.
What medical treatment is available?
There is medical treatment for shingles. Antiviral medications can usually clear up a case of shingles within a month’s time. Unfortunately, about 20 per cent of people who get shingles may develop what is known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a very painful condition that can last for months and sometimes years.
The vaccine for shingles is known as Zostavax. It is an FDA approved drug for use by people over 65 years of age. This age group is considered the most susceptible since the immune system is said to weaken with age. People with compromised immune systems can also use this drug. The vaccine has been shown to prevent shingles in a little over half of those tested.
If you are vaccinated and have an outbreak, the painful symptoms will be significantly reduced. Common side effects of this vaccine are swelling at the site of injection with redness, pain and tenderness, and headache. But be sure to acquaint yourself with all the side effects, especially if you are taking other drugs.
Statistics claim that half of the people over 80 will develop shingles. Avoid contact with people with shingles until the rash heals. Anyone with shingles can spread chicken pox to people who have never had chicken pox.
It seems the best advice is to keep your immune system healthy and strong.
See link below for more suggested reading including healthy eating:
- The Unlisted Side Effects of Pharmaceuticals
By now we know that the medicine we take, whether prescribed or over the counter, has a multitude of side effects. But there is one more side effect we seldom hear about.
Healthy eating suggestions for a strong immune system
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- Sea Vegetables and the Amazing Health Benefits
Adding sea vegetables to your diet will provide the most extensive variety of minerals found in any food. For example, seaweed has more calcium than milk and more iron than beef.