Shingles is a very common skin disease especially for adults over the age of 50. It impacts both men and women and is caused by the varicella zoster virus. The varicella virus remains dormant in the body of anyone who has had chickenpox and many people who have had the chickenpox vaccination. When it becomes active, as it does in about 20-percent of the population, the result is shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster.
Factors that Increase Risks
While there is no specific trigger that makes the varicella virus become active, there are contributing factors that increase risks. These include stress, a weakened immune system, certain types of cancer and treatments for cancer including chemotherapy. Taking certain medications can also increase risks, as can being positive for HIV and AIDs. For some individuals, the aging process alone is enough to trigger shingles.
Medical Attention for Shingles
When a senior has shingles, seeking prompt medical attention is important. Doctors can prescribe some anti-viral medications that reduce the severity of the disease and might even shorten the duration of symptoms. They can also monitor the senior for skin infections and other medical conditions that might be impacted by shingles including gastrointestinal issues, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Symptoms of the Virus
Knowing that it is time to seek medical attention involves recognizing the most common symptoms associated with shingles. Many seniors often experience these soon after the virus presents. They include:
- A burning, itching or tingling sensation along one side of the torso
- A rash that appears within one to five days after this sensation first presents
- Fluid-filled blisters on the body
- Headaches, abdominal pain or confusion
At Home Care for Shingles
At home, there are many things that family members and professional caregivers through an agency like Salus Homecare Los Angeles can do to help relieve the symptoms of shingles. These include administering oatmeal baths, encouraging seniors to maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated, watching for signs of skin infection, applying lotion or vitamin E oil to the skin and providing opportunities for rest and recovery. Taking these steps helps to keep a senior comfortable and positive throughout recovery. This gives the body time to heal and often helps seniors to avoid more permanent physical, mental and cognitive decline.
The Risk of PHN
One of the more severe symptoms of shingles is Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This is a condition that some seniors experience after their initial symptoms of shingles have cleared. It causes pain that persists for up to three months after shingles has cleared. Approximately 47-percent of adults over the age of 60 develop PHN. It impacts not only quality of life but the ability to remain at home and live independently. Seniors experiencing PHN often do better when provided with the right level of support. This often includes in home care through an agency like Salus Homecare Los Angeles. They also find relief through the use of topical medications and certain antidepressants, as prescribed by a medical professional.
As with all other health conditions, the best course of action for preventing the side effects associated with shingles is to take a proactive approach. While there is no guaranteed way to always avoid shingles, certain steps help to reduce risks. These include discussing the shingles vaccination with a medical professional, avoiding individuals with an active case of shingles or chickenpox, especially if you have never had chickenpox and leading a healthy lifestyle. Avoiding stress, maintaining a healthy diet and keeping the immune system strong helps many seniors to avoid shingles or reduce the severity of symptoms if the condition is diagnosed.
Salus Homecare Los Angeles encourages all seniors and their family members to educate themselves about shingles. Take steps to remain healthy, discuss vaccinations with your doctor and learn about symptoms so you can seek prompt medical attention if necessary. Doing so helps your aging loved ones to live healthy, productive and independent lives.