But shingles can also affect people who are younger
than 60. It is more likely to occur in people who had chicken pox before age one. People who come in contact with the rash shingles causes can get chicken pox. But shingles can’t be passed from one person to another.
“About 10 percent of the population will develop it
in their life,” says Dr. Lydia A. Juzych, division head in the Department of Dermatology at the Troy Henry Ford Medical Center. “Ten percent of patients who have had chicken pox in their lifetime will have shingles.”
Just like all other diseases, the earlier it is treated, she
says, the better the outcome. “If you think you are starting to have shingles, if
you’re having pain or if you develop some blisters or wet bumps, see your doctor right away,” Jazych says. “There is medication you can take that can speed up the healing and avoid the post herpetic pain that can last for weeks, months or even years.”
Jazych says shingles pain rarely lasts years, but some
effects of it can. For example, Winfield says even nearly two years
later, he occasionally feels a funny itch in his nose or a tingling sensation near his cheek at the corner of his nose. Sometimes, he suffers from neuropathy and experiences numbness in his face.
Before the ordeal was over, he had experienced
debilitating pain for two months. The eruptions on his face lasted for about a month, and while healing they left black and blue crusted scabs. Those eventually cleared up.
He continued seeing a dermatologist, and he also
saw an ophthalmologist because of concern with the condition causing blindness.
“It was a scary thing,” he says. “I didn’t know something
like this could take you down and be so painful.” A vaccine is available for shingles, and the CDC
recommends anyone 60 or older get the vaccine. This year, however, it may be more challenging to get one because of a vaccine shortage. If you want a shingles vaccine, check with your private physician. In Metro Detroit, Walgreens and Rite Aid offer the vaccine. Insurance is accepted, and the cost is about $200 without insurance.
Shingles is an equal opportunity condition, affecting
African Americans the same as everybody else, Jazych says.
“Men and women are equally affected and it crosses
all ethnicities,” she says. “Everybody can get shingles, people who are immunosuppressed are more prone to it, especially if you have cancer or are HIV-positive. You are more prone to it if you have any condition that has suppressed your immune system.”
Winfield recommends that everyone who qualifies for
it, get the vaccine. Since his bout with the condition his wife and friends have been vaccinated.
“I tell them you don’t want that stuff,” he says. “It’s a serious disease. Anybody older than 60 should get it.”
10 LivingWELL • August 2011 10 LivingWELL • October 2011 Marvin and Barbara Winkfield
The National Institutes of Health offers these FACTS about shingles: Symptoms The first symptom is usually one-sided pain, tingling,
or burning. The pain and burning may be severe and is usually present before any rash appears.
Red patches on the skin, followed by small blisters, form in most people.
• The blisters break, forming small ulcers that begin to dry and form crusts. The crusts fall off in 2 to 3 weeks. Scarring is rare.
• The rash usually involves a narrow area from the spine around to the front of the belly area or chest.
• The rash may involve face, eyes, mouth, and ears. Additional symptoms may include:
• Abdominal pain • Chills • Difficulty moving some of the muscles in the face • Drooping eyelid (ptosis) •
Fever and chills
• General ill-feeling • Genital lesions • Headache • Hearing loss • • •
Joint pain Loss of eye motion Swollen glands (lymph nodes)
• Taste problems • Vision problems
You may also have pain, muscle weakness, and a rash
involving different parts of your face if shingles affects a nerve in your face.
Signs and tests Your doctor can make the diagnosis by looking at
your skin and asking questions about your medical history. Tests are rarely needed, but may include taking a skin sample to see if the skin is infected with the virus that causes shingles. Blood tests may show an increase in white blood cells and antibodies to the chickenpox virus but cannot confirm that the rash is due to shingles.
Treatment Your doctor may prescribe a medicine that fights the
virus, called an antiviral. The drug helps reduce pain and complications and shortens the course of the disease. Acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir may be used.
The medications should be started within 24 hours of
feeling pain or burning and preferably before the blisters appear. The drugs are usually administered in pill form, in doses many times greater than those recommended for herpes simplex or genital herpes. Some people may need to receive the medicine intravenously.
Strong anti-inflammatory medicines called cortico-
steroids, such as prednisone, may be used to reduce swelling and the risk of continued pain. These drugs do not work in all patients.
Other medicines may include:
• Antihistamines to reduce itching (taken by mouth or applied to the skin)
• Pain medicines
• Zostrix, a cream containing capsaicin (an extract of pepper) that may reduce the risk of postherpetic neuralgia
Cool, wet compresses can be used to reduce pain.
Soothing baths and lotions, such as colloidal oatmeal bath, starch baths, or calamine lotion may help to relieve itching and discomfort.
Resting in bed until the fever goes down is recom-
mended. The skin should be kept clean, and contaminated items
should not be reused. Non-disposable items should be washed in boiling water or otherwise disinfected before reuse. The person may need to be isolated while lesions are oozing to prevent infecting other people who have never had chickenpox -- especially pregnant women.
Expectations (prognosis) Herpes zoster usually clears in 2 to 3 weeks and
rarely recurs. If the virus affects the nerves that control movement, you may have temporary or permanent weakness or paralysis.
Complications Sometimes, the pain in the area where the shingles
occurred may last for months or years. This pain is called postherpetic neuralgia. It occurs when the nerves have been damaged after an outbreak of shingles. Pain ranges from mild to very severe pain. It is more likely to occur in people over 60 years.
Other complications may include:
• Another attack of shingles • Blindness (if shingles occurs in the eye) • Deafness •
• Bacterial skin infections
• Ramsay Hunt syndrome if shingles affected the nerves in the face
Infection, including encephalitis or sepsis (blood infection) in persons with weakened immune systems
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