Most adults over the age of 40 have had chickenpox at some point in their life. This often uncomfortable condition causes many to develop a sometimes extensive rash and blisters. The rash itches, tingles or burns and causes many to have a difficult time sleeping. Once chickenpox clears, many are surprised to learn that the virus lays dormant in their system. As long as it is dormant, there are no further symptoms. However, if it is reactivated, the result is shingles.
What is Shingles
Shingles or herpes zoster is a painful condition that causes a rash to develop on one side of the body. The rash blisters, crusts and can last for an extended period of time. Many individuals who develop shingles also report flu-like symptoms. Extreme fatigue, stomach distress, headaches and even memory loss and confusion are common. More permanent side effects of shingles sometimes include nerve damage. This causes a burning, tingling or a sensitive to touch sensation for weeks or months.
Who is at Risk
Some individuals believe that shingles only impacts the elderly. While it is true that those over 50 have an increased risk of developing this condition, it can occur at any age. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles. While vaccinating against chickenpox reduces risks to some degree, it does not offer complete protection.
Most doctors will recommend the shingles vaccination to all adults over the age of 50. Getting vaccinated does offer some protection. It also reduces the severity of shingles should it develop. However, even the vaccination does not offer complete protection. Other ways to minimize the risk of developing shingles include reducing stress, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and taking other measures to lead a healthy lifestyle and boost the immune system. Individuals being treated for cancer or HIV are also at an increased risk. Speaking with your doctor, following his advice and taking medications as prescribed will sometimes help to minimize these increased risks.
Reasons to See a Doctor
Individuals who develop shingles sometimes avoid seeing a doctor. They believe there is nothing that scheduling an appointment is unproductive. While there is no cure for shingles, seeking medical advice as soon as possible after symptoms appear does offer advantages. Doctors often prescribe anti-viral medications that ease symptoms and may make recovery faster. Additionally, they can make recommendations for at-home care. This includes using topical ointments, taking oatmeal baths and getting support from a professional homecare provider like Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley to make rest and recovery possible.
After having shingles once, most individuals believe they cannot get it again. Unfortunately, the virus that causes shingles remains dormant in the body even after symptoms disappear. Some people will also experience more long-term side effects and nerve damage. This is especially true for those who have not been vaccinated and those who do not seek prompt medical care after symptoms first emerge. The virus can also reappear at a later time in life.
How Contagious is Shingles
Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox, but anyone who has ever had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine has it in their system. When an individual develops shingles, it is a good idea to cover the rash anytime they are in contact with other people. Family, friends and homecare workers assisting the person should take precautions including wearing gloves when touching the rash and participating in frequent hand washing. If a person is exposed to shingles and has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it, it is possible to contract chickenpox. Children who are too young to get vaccinated against chickenpox are often advised to avoid individuals with shingles until their rash has cleared completely.
While shingles is a condition to take seriously, understanding the virus and catching symptoms early helps to keep people safe. If you or a loved one develops a rash or other symptoms related to shingles, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Find the support necessary to rest and recover, and avoid contact with anyone who has never had chickenpox. Salus Homecare San Gabriel Valley is always here to help. If you need assistance during recovery, give us a call and request a complimentary, no obligation evaluation.
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