Shingles is a painful skin condition that is associated with the Chicken Pox. It is in fact caused by a re-emergence of the virus that causes Chicken Pox many years after the original childhood illness most experience. Shingles also known as Herpes Zoster, has becoming increasingly common in elderly people. This is because people are living longer and may have weakened immune systems in their senior years. Half of the seniors over 60 who have had Chicken Pox as a child, are likely to develop Shingles by the time they reach 85.
Shingles is a viral infection of the nerve roots. It causes headaches, localized pain and often causes a rash on the side of the body. The effect of age is demonstrated by one study, which showed that 1/3 of all healthy elderly people tested, had a low or an absent cell response to the Herpes virus, compared with none of those in a 20-40 age group who were also tested. Shingles causes a lot of discomfort to seniors and those affected by it would benefit greatly from the care given in an assisted living facility. Because Shingles is such a common skin condition in seniors between the ages of 60 and 85, residential assisted living facilities are skilled at providing the proper treatment and care required.
Who Gets It? Anyone who has had Chicken Pox can get Shingles. You have a greater chance of getting Shingles if you:
- Are older than 50
- Have an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your body’s own tissues
- Have other health problems or stress that weaken the immune system
Shingles is not a contagious skin condition. However, a person with a Shingles rash can spread Chicken Pox to another person who hasn’t had Chicken Pox or who has not been vaccinated. Most people who get Shingles will get better and will not suffer from it again. However the most common complication of Shingles is a distressed condition called Post Herpetic Neuralgia or PHN. 1 to 3 months after the rash has disappeared pain can occur in the same area. The pain can be severe and long lasting. It may be a deep ache, punctuated by sharp stabbing pains, and is associated with muscle contractions. Older people are far more likely to have PHN. Over 65% of untreated Shingles patients over 60 had PHN in 1 study, compared with only 10% of those under 40. Moreover a duration of PHN for over 1 year occurred in almost 1/2 the affected cases in people over 70, compared with less than 5% in younger persons. This indicates that elderly people are extremely susceptible to PHN, although there is no valid explanation for this.
There are other, even more serious complications of Shingles in the elderly but they are fortunately quite rare. Serious complications include:
- Loss of vision caused by Shingles of the Ophthalmic nerve
- Paralysis of the face or limb muscles
- Inflammation of the brain, liver or lungs
How Is It Treated?
There is no cure for Shingles though treatment may help you get well faster and prevent other problems. Call a doctor as soon as you think you may have the virus. The sooner you start treatment, the better it works. Seniors would find it easier to deal with the symptoms of Shingles if they sought out the aid of an assisted living community in their area.
Treatment May Include:
Antiviral medicines to help you get well sooner and feel less pain
Medicines to help long-term pain (These include antidepressants, pain medicines and topical skin creams.)
Proper care is required to heal from Shingles quickly. Assisted living health care facilities offer care of any skin sores, and can keep them clean. They also help seniors with their medications and adjust dosages if necessary. Around the clock attention from Assisted Living facilities will help Shingles patients recover faster.
If you have never had Chicken Pox and have never taken the Chicken Pox vaccine, avoid being in contact with Shingles or Chicken Pox patients. If you are at least 60 years old, you can get a vaccine that may prevent Shingles or make it less painful if you do catch it. Talk to an assisted living nursing home about services that will help ease the suffering of a Shingles patient and can also offer the vaccine to seniors as prevention.
800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living San Jose and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.
About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.