Senior Health: The Truth Behind Shingles

Understanding Shingles: Causes, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

By Will Reid, 9:00 am on

Shingles is a disease that mostly strikes people over the age of 50, and there are many myths surrounding the causes and treatments of this common illness. To clear up the matter, here is what every senior adult should know about the truth behind a shingles diagnosis.

Causes

If your loved one has ever had chicken pox, then he or she is at risk for shingles because it is caused by the same varicella-zoster virus. Cincinnati elder care professionals believe it is important to note that this virus falls within the category of herpes viruses, which is why you may also hear shingles referred to as the herpes-zoster virus. However, it is not the same as having cold sores or genital herpes since different types of viruses cause those.

After a person recovers from chicken pox, the virus lies dormant in the nervous system. When it reactivates, the person will develop the symptoms of shingles. While a definite reason for the reactivation of the virus has yet to be determined, it is believed that a lowered immune system may play a role.

Symptoms

A hallmark of shingles is a red, painful rash that occurs on only one side of the body. Tingling and burning sensations may be felt within the rash area, and some people notice the rash has fluid-filled blisters that open and crust over in a manner similar to chicken pox. The rash may itch and generally be uncomfortable until it clears. A fever, headache and fatigue may also be present.

Prevention and Treatment

When shingles blisters are present, it is important for seniors to understand that it is contagious, and contact with a person who is not immune could cause chicken pox. The rash and other symptoms may be treated with oral medications and topical creams that can increase the rate of healing while reducing symptoms.

There are also two vaccinations that can prevent shingles depending upon your loved one’s immunity status. Those who have never had chicken pox can benefit from the varicella vaccine, and there is a shingles vaccine available for those over 50 who have been infected with chicken pox in the past.

Staying up-to-date on vaccinations is just one way to help keep your loved one happy and health. You might also consider help from a caregiver in Cincinnati who can prepare healthy meals, assist with exercise, offer medication reminders, and provide companionship for your loved one. To learn more, reach out to Home Care Assistance at 513.891.2273 and request a complimentary in-home consultation today.