Most people over 35 had chicken pox as children. For today’s kids there’s a vaccine, but it didn’t start being given until 1995. For the millions who had chicken pox there’s another offshoot of the virus to be cognizant of — shingles.
Yes, the same herpes virus that gives a kid chicken pox causes shingles in older adults. Those who have had chicken pox are at a much higher risk for shingles. As that person goes through life, the varicella zoster virus stays dormant in nerve tissue near the brain and spinal cord. As we get older, particularly after 60, the virus can reactivate as shingles.
What are the signs of shingles?
Shingles shows itself in unique ways, depending on the person. Sometimes, it starts with headaches or being sensitive to light. Sometimes the virus presents as a painful rash of fluid-filled blisters wrapping around the back and chest, typically on only one side of the body. There can be flu-like symptoms without a fever. Next a shooting or burning pain can be felt on one side of the body or face. The pain can be severe. After 14 days, rashes start to appear on the face. The pain can linger for weeks, months, even longer.
Who gets shingles?
Older people who have had chicken pox as kids are affected more often. It also shows itself more in those who are weak from stress, illness, or from taking certain medications that stress the immune system. People think shingles is communicable as some rashes are, but it isn’t.
If you begin to show signs of shingles, it’s important to come and see Dr. Matsuda or Dr. Sheu because early treatment can head off some of the most painful symptoms. We will diagnose shingles based on examination of the rash, along with your other symptoms. Treatment consists of antiviral medicines to shorten the course of the illness and pain relievers to alleviate the pain.
A shingles vaccine is now available and is recommended for individuals over the age of 60. It can be given to anyone over the age of 50. While not preventative, the vaccine has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of an outbreak, and to lessen its severity should it occur. We can give you the vaccine at Matsuda.
Call us at 808-949-7568 for an appointment.