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.
Shingles is triggered by a weakened or compromised immune system. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a virus infection that causes painful rashes on the body, usually on one side of your torso. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox.
While shingles itself isn’t usually a deadly disease, it can lead to conditions such as pneumonia and encephalitis, which can be fatal. This is particularly true for older people whose immune systems have been compromised by treatments for illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.
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.
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.
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.
The 4 stages of shingles and how the condition progresses
According to researchers at the Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, patients who have left their shingles symptoms untreated have an increased risk of dementia.
The blisters that develop as a result of shingles contain virus particles. If you have not had chickenpox before, you can catch it from direct contact with the fluid from the blisters of someone who has shingles, or from something that has the fluid on it, such as bed sheets or a towel.
Foods that have been found to exacerbate the shingles virus should be avoided where possible. The worst culprits contain the amino acid arginine that actually stimulate the herpes virus to replicate, such as, nuts, seeds, soy products, oats, coconut, flour (white and whole-wheat), and alas, chocolate.
“ Shingles is extremely painful, said Bolling. “On a scale from one to 10, most patients will say the pain ranges from six to 10.” Between one and five days after the first symptoms occur, a rash will develop in the affected area.
Very rarely, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death. For about one person in five, severe pain can continue even after the rash clears up. This pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia.
Most people who develop shingles have only one episode during their lifetime. However, you can have shingles more than once. If you have shingles, direct contact with the fluid from your rash blisters can spread VZV to people who have never had chickenpox or never received the chickenpox vaccine.
Emotional stress is considered a trigger for shingles because it has been shown to weaken the body’s immune system. This can happen in those who have undergone a sudden shock, such as the death of a loved one, or people who face chronic work or life stress.
Most cases of shingles cause severe pain and itching, and can leave scars. Fluid-filled blisters develop, break, and crust over during and a few weeks after an outbreak. You also may feel sick or fatigued, with a slight fever or headache. However, it is possible to have rashes that are so mild they’re not even noticed.