Shingles
04/07/2003

Shingles are no laughing matter and you probably witnessed its affects on
late-night talk show host David Letterman, whose bout with the virus left him with a serious eye infection and knocked him off his feet for weeks. According to the National Institute of Health, the same virus — herpes-zoster — that causes chickenpox causes shingles. Once you recover from chickenpox, you are immune from getting the disease again, but the virus remains dormant in the nerve roots and can become active and cause shingles.

You can’t catch shingles from anyone, but if you haven’t had chickenpox you can catch them from someone with shingles.

The NIH estimates 600,000 to one million Americans are diagnosed with shingles each year. It’s most common in people over age 50, but anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk. Shingles is also common in those with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations and stress.

According to the NIH, symptoms of shingles includes:

  • Numbness
  • Itching or severe pain followed by clusters of blister-like lesions in a strip-like pattern on one side of your body
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and malaise
  • Symptoms normally appear on only one side of the body usually the torso or  face and can last for weeks, months and even years after the rash heals.

Shingles on the face can lead to serious and irreversible hearing and vision problems and require immediate medical attention. Although there is no vaccine available, antiviral medications are most effective if used at the onset of the rash. If you experience the symptoms of shingles, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.