Did you know that there are some viruses you are more susceptible to simply by getting older? While anyone is capable of getting shingles, those over the age of 60 have a higher chance of becoming infected. It is important to know the symptoms and treatments to help keep yourself healthy.
Shingles is a virus that causes a painful blistery rash. It is a Varicella-Zoster virus, also known as the human herpes virus, that also causes chickenpox. The rash that shingles causes can appear anywhere on your body. However, it most often appears on the torso and extends from the spine either to the right or to the left.
As with any virus, the Varicella-Zoster virus will remain in your body forever. It is most often diagnosed by a doctor during a physical exam. The first symptoms of shingles are usually pain and burning. The pain is generally on one side of the body and is followed by a red rash. Characteristics of this rash include red patches, fluid filled blisters that break easily, a rash that wraps around one side of the body, a rash on the face or ears, and itchiness. Some people experience more serious symptoms including fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and muscle weakness. More severe complications of shingles can cause permanent eye damage, loss of hearing or dizziness. These symptoms are rare.
Generally, people who develop shingles experience pain for a short period and then they are able to make a full recovery, though sometimes the nerve pain can linger for weeks or months. Shingles is treated with oral and anti-viral medicines, anti-inflammatory medicines, pain medicines, anti-histamines and numbing creams or patches. Any lingering nerve pain can be treated with medication for muscle and joint aches.
It is important to see a doctor at the first sign of shingles symptoms to protect not only yourself, but those around you because the virus is contagious. However, it can only be spread to someone who has never had chicken pox. This is because anyone who had chicken pox in the past has the Varicella-Zoster virus in their body. Additionally, once the blisters have developed a scab, you are no longer contagious.
There are several risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of getting shingles. These include being over the age of 60, having a disease that weakens the immune system such as HIV, AIDS, or cancer, receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and taking medications after having a transplant to prevent organ rejection. There is a shingles vaccination and it is highly recommended that anyone over the age of 60 receive it.
Fortunately, there are ways to lower an individual’s chance of becoming infected with this virus. Having a strong immune system is the first level of defense against any illness. A low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains helps to protect you from not only shingles, but a variety of other infections.  It is also beneficial to take daily vitamins, drink plenty of water and get a healthy amount of exercise.
Shingles is a common illness that effects millions of people. Be sure to call your doctor at the first sign of symptoms and take the proper precautions to help guard yourself from this infection. By being well informed and seeking treatment, you can reduce your risk of contracting shingles and live your best and healthiest life. Contact Riddle Village today to learn more.