The cause of shingles in the elderly is a virus called varicella-zoster. Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by this virus. After you have chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years after recovering from chickenpox, it can reactivate and cause shingles.
Complications from shingles in the elderly can lead to serious, long-term health problems. They range from bacterial skin infections that can cause scarring and narcotizing fasciitis to hearing and vision loss, encephalitis, transverse myelitis, peripheral motor neuropathy, and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Shingles — also known as herpes zoster — is a condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles itself is not contagious. It can’t spread from one person to another.
A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. The blister fluid is filled with virus particles. The virus is spread through direct contact with the rash or through breathing in virus particles that get mixed in the air.
Although shingles can develop at any age, it tends to occur most frequently in people between the ages of 60 and 80. By age 60, one in three people will have had shingles. For this reason, shingles are linked to a rising threat among seniors.
For adults who are otherwise fairly healthy, shingles is not life threatening, though it can be quite uncomfortable. However, when left untreated, shingles may cause complications. For certain people — such as those over the age of 65 or whose immune systems are compromised — these complications could lead to death.
Answer: Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles (varicella zoster virus), can spread from a person with active shingles to cause chickenpox in someone who has never had chickenpox or received two doses of a chickenpox vaccine.
People untreated for shingles, which is caused by the varicella zoster herpes virus, were 20 percent more likely to develop dementia, whereas those with a history of HSV-1 were just as likely to be diagnosed with dementia as controls.
When varicella zoster reawakens, it wreaks a surprising amount of havoc in the body. BURNED When the virus responsible for chicken pox reemerges — sometimes decades after that first infection — it can raise the risk of stroke, dementia and long-term pain.
The reason for shingles is unclear. But it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older. Shingles is more common in older adults and in people who have weakened immune systems.
Is Shingles Airborne? While chickenpox is an airborne disease, with shingles the virus can only be transmitted by contact with fluid from the rash or blisters if the person with shingles has a localized rash and has a competent immune system. In such people, airborne transmission is not a concern.
Since stress affects the immune system, many researchers believe that stress could be a trigger for shingles. Researchers in multiple studies have linked chronic, daily stress, and highly stressful life events as risk factors for shingles.
The risk of spreading the virus is greatly reduced if the rash is well covered. The disseminated form is more communicable than the localized form and may be spread by the airborne route. NOTE: Herpes Zoster (shingles) is not as contagious as chickenpox.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all people 60 years of age or older be vaccinated with one dose of Zostavax to prevent shingles. The older a person is, the more severe the effects of shingles can be, so it is worthwhile for your 90-year-old mother to get the vaccine.
The virus hibernates in nerves for years, even decades and then seemingly out of nowhere, it attacks. Only those who’ve had chicken pox — just about everyone over 40 years of age — can come down with shingles. Age counts as the greatest risk factor for a shingles outbreak.
Most cases of shingles last three to five weeks. The first sign is often burning or tingling pain; sometimes it includes numbness or itching on one side of the body. Somewhere between one and five days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear.