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).
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.
Duration of Postherpetic Neuralgia The pain of shingles usually persists for around three months. When this pain lingers long after the rash heals, it is considered PN. The bout of shingles damaged the nerves. This means that the nerve damage caused by shingles brings on a fully functioning nervous system.
The stages of shingles are tingling pain, followed by a burning feeling and a red rash, then blistering, and finally the blisters will crust over. You will typically develop a rash about 1-5 days after you feel numbness or tingling pain.
Oral anti-viral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) have been shown to decrease the severity and duration of the rash and shingles pain, but only if they are started within 72 hours of the appearance of the rash.
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox. You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping (oozing fluid) and cannot be covered.
If someone is taking shingles sick leave, they shouldn’t need a lot of time off. They can come back once they feel better, in the event of a fever—but if they have a rash on exposed skin, they should really stay off work until this has crusted over. This can take around seven days.
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.
The disease is not contagious to someone as long as the person has already had chicken pox. However, people with shingles are contagious to those who are still susceptible to the chicken pox virus. Babies, young children and unvaccinated individuals are most susceptible, as well as those with weakened immune systems.
It can be constant or intermittent and may get worse at night or in reaction to heat or cold. The pain can result in fatigue, sleep disturbance, anorexia, depression and, in general, a lowering of quality of life.
Shingles , a viral infection of the nerve roots, affects 1 million people in the U.S each year. Most people recover from their bout, but for as many as 50% of those over age 60 who have not been treated, the pain doesn’t go away . It can last for months, years, or even the rest of their lives.
Shingles blisters usually scab over in 7-10 days and disappear completely in two to four weeks. In most healthy people, the blisters leave no scars, and the pain and itching go away after a few weeks or months. But people with weakened immune systems may develop shingles blisters that do not heal in a timely manner.
Somewhere between 1 and 5 days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear. A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters . About a week to 10 days after that, the blisters dry up and crust over. A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.
Valacyclovir ( Valtrex ): Valacyclovir has been studied in people living with HIV and herpes simplex but not shingles , and is a preferred choice of treatment. It is taken three times a day for 7 –10 days . Valacyclovir rarely causes side effects, appears safe to use during pregnancy, and offers better dosing.
Weakened Immune System There is a clear association between shingles and weakened immunity to infection. 9 Even though the varicella virus is not invading the body for the first time, the immune system still is responsible for keeping it at bay. Sometimes, however, it’s unable to do that.