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All About Shingles: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

According to leading providers of senior care in Albuquerque, shingles (herpes zoster) is a reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox. The odds of the shingles virus becoming active greatly increase with age, with more than half of all cases occurring in individuals 60 and over. Having a better understanding of shingles can help seniors and their caregivers recognize signs of an infection at a time when treatment may reduce painful symptoms and shorten the duration of an outbreak.

Shingles Causes and Symptoms

After chickenpox has run its course, the virus lies dormant in spinal nerve cells. The virus can become reactivated when the immune system is compromised or suppressed by physical or emotional trauma, a serious illness, or some medications, like steroids. Blistering often occurs on the face, chest, back and abdomen. The virus lasts about two weeks, although some people develop postherpetic neuralgia, or pain that lingers after blisters heal. Symptoms of shingles typically include:

• Burning pain on one side of the body
• Groups of red bumps
• Painful skin blisters

Treatments for Shingles

There’s nothing that can be done once the virus becomes active again other than to let it run its course for several weeks. However, early treatment may reduce the duration of the outbreak and minimize the scarring that sometimes results after the blisters heal. Lingering pain following the initial outbreak is more difficult to treat and manage. Treatment of symptoms may include:

• Painkillers and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen
• Antiviral drugs such as Famvir and Valtrex
• Over-the-counter medications like Benzoin to protect irritated skin
• Antibiotics if a bacterial infection develops
• Tricyclic antidepressants if pain lingers following the initial outbreak

Zostavax is an FDA-approved vaccine that’s recommended for anyone 60 and older who has previously had chickenpox. While vaccinated seniors may still develop shingles, the painful period of the condition is often reduced when the preventative vaccine is administered prior to an outbreak.

Learn more about senior health from the friendly staff at Home Care Assistance. We are known for our hourly and live-in senior care, but we also offer comprehensive stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s care Albuquerque families trust. Our caregivers are expertly trained, our Care Managers are on-call 24/7, and we never require clients to sign long-term contracts. Give us a call today at 505-798-0800 for more information or to schedule a free in-home consultation.