Shingles: The Inside Story
The virus that causes Shingles may already be inside you. As you get older, you may be paying more attention to your health now than you used to. And that’s a good thing. But if you’ve ever had chickenpox, the virus that causes Shingles is inside you. And that means the painful, blistering rash of Shingles can happen to you at any time.
Are you at Risk?
It’s hard to tell when the Shingles rash will erupt but here’s what we do know:
- If you’ve had chickenpox, you are at risk for Shingles. And 98% of adults in the United States have had chickenpox.
- You’re at greater risk for Shingles as you get older.
- Shingles can strike at any time and it can be painful.
If you’ve had chickenpox, the Shingles virus is already inside you. The virus that causes chickenpox never leaves your nervous system and can reemerge and cause the Shingles rash.
Your risk for Shingles increases as you get older. When you’re young, your immune system is usually strong enough to keep the virus in check. But your immune system weakens as you age, making it easier for Shingles to break through your body’s defenses. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about Shingles.
The Shingles Rash can last up to 30 days.
The Shingles rash forms where the nerves from the spinal cord connect with the skin. This area is called a dermatome. Usually the rash will only appear along a dermatone located on one side of the body.
The Shingles rash is red and blistering and can last up to 30 days. In many cases, people with Shingles may also develop long-term nerve pain, meaning that pain can last for months or even years after the rash has healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia or PHN. As you get older, the risk of developing PHN is greater.
Here are some facts about Shingles:
*There are more than 1 million cases of Shingles each year in the United States.
*1 in 3 people will get Shingles during their lifetime.
*1 to every 4 people who get Shingles will experience some type of complication.
It can feel as bad as it looks. Here are some photos of the Shingles rash, which can take up to 30 days to heal.
*With a mild Shingles rash, a few blisters appear on the skin. This photo shows a mild case on the hand.
*With a moderate Shingles rash, a cluster of blisters form, often along one side of the torso as shown.
*With a severe Shingles rash, blisters can merge into a large area resembling a burn. Here, the eye is affected by the rash, which can sometimes lead to impaired vision.
The pain that accompanies the rash can range from mild to severe. It’s hard to predict how severe Shingles will be. So talk to your health care provider about your risk for Shingles soon.
Talk to your doctor today:
Here are some questions to help you talk to your doctor about your risk for Shingles. Add any other questions you may have in the space provided.
*Is the Shingles virus inside me?
*Why am I at greater risk for Shingles as I get older?
*Are there other things that may increase my risk?
*Can there be complications from Shingles?
*How cold these complication affect me?
*If you’ve had chickenpox, you’re at risk for Shingles. So don’t wait to talk to your doctor.
Shingles: the Inside Story
Learn more about Shingles and find out about personal risk. Visit shingleinfo.com.
Disclaimer: This information was taken directly from the Merck & Co. Inc. pamphlet. Please call the above number or email them for more information.