Though getting older increases your risk of shingles, young adults can develop this condition as well. Learn more about why this happens. The idea that only older people should be concerned with getting shingles is untrue. The rates of singles have been stable in older adults since 2008. However, the rates of shingles are increasing in middle-aged and, especially, younger adults.The
The idea that only older people should be concerned with getting shingles is untrue. The rates of singles have been stable in older adults since 2008. However, the rates of shingles are increasing in middle-aged and, especially, younger adults.
The exact reason for this increase is unknown. Still, studies suggest that it could be caused by decreased early exposure to the shingles virus, known as the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), due to childhood varicella vaccinations. VZV is also the virus that causes chicken pox.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and blisters on the skin. Some cases can lead to serious complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a long-term condition that affects the nerve fibers of the skin where shingles occurred, causing pain.
Shingles occurs when VZV reemerges after a period of inactivity in the body. If you've had chicken pox, the virus stays in the body and can later become reactivated for reasons that are not fully understood. When VZV is reactivated, the condition it causes is known as shingles.
This article will provide an overview of shingles and explore theories that explain the rates of increase.
About 1 million cases of shingles, affecting about four out of 1,000 individuals, occur in the United States each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Children who receive varicella (chicken pox) vaccination have a lower risk of later contracting shingles compared to those who do not. Despite this, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of contracting shingles.
Since 1998, the rates for shingles in the United States have been growing among young and middle-aged adults, while the rates have remained stable for older adults since 2008. Researchers aren't sure why this is, but there are a few theories to explain the rise in young and middle-aged adults. These include:
Childhood varicella vaccinations: Studies show that the rates of shingles have increased since varicella vaccines were introduced in 1996. Varicella vaccines use a live-attenuated (weakened) form of VZV to stimulate the immune system into producing antibodies that fight off the virus (the vaccine does not cause varicella itself). In doing so, the body is protected against the disease.
Some researchers speculate that an increase in shingles may be attributed to the lack of exposure to wild varicella-zoster virus. As their immunity wanes over time, adults aren't given a natural "boost" by being exposed to children who have chickenpox.
Increased chronic diseases: Chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes are on the rise in the United States. These diseases may hinder the immune system's ability to fight off infections, leading to an increased risk of developing shingles. Also, immunosuppressive drugs are more widely used for various chronic diseases.
Although shingles can be visible on any area of the body, it usually appears as a band on the trunk of the body or on one side of the face in the form a painful rash or blisters. You can get shingles once or, in rare cases, two or more times.
The signs and symptoms of shingles vary from person to person. Common signs and symptoms include:
Although shingles has no cure, it is important to seek medical attention when appropriate. If you suspect you have shingles and experience any of its associated signs and symptoms within the first three days, consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Your healthcare provider will evaluate and determine the best course of treatment based on:
Common treatments for shingles and PHN include:
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccinations. The CDC recommends individuals 50 years or older to get two doses of Shingrix, a vaccine for shingles, which provides over 90% protection.
Shingrix is a recombinant vaccine, which means it is made from just a part of the virus and, therefore, the virus cannot replicate. The vaccine does not cause the infection itself. Shingrix also protects individuals against the complication of PHN.
Individuals who are 19 years or older and are immunocompromised should also receive two doses of Shingrix. However, the effectiveness of Shingrix varies if you are immunocompromised. Studies show a 68%–91% efficacy, with percentages differing based on the underlying health condition(s) you may have.
The CDC recommends getting two doses of Shingrix if you:
You should not get Shingrix if you currently have shingles or are pregnant.
The rates of shingles are increasing in younger adults. The exact reason for this increase is unknown, but studies suggest that it could be caused by decreased exposure to the shingles virus, known as the varicella zoster virus (VSZ), due to childhood varicella vaccinations.
Shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes painful rashes and blisters on the skin. Some infections can lead to serious complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a condition characterized by chronic pain even after the infection is gone.
According to the CDC, one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime. Risk factors that can increase your risk for contracting shingles include your age, if you have an underlying health condition, and if you are immunocompromised.
The best way to prevent shingles is through vaccinations. The CDC recommends individuals 50 years or older and those who are 19 years or older who are immunocompromised get two doses of Shingrix for protection against shingles.
Shingles can occur at any age. The best prevention against shingles is by getting vaccinated. If you have children, the possible correlation between childhood varicella vaccinations and the increase in rates of shingles should not deter you from getting them vaccinated.
Vaccine-acquired immunity (introduction of weakened or killed pathogens) from varicella vaccines is still much safer than natural-acquired immunity (exposure to pathogens from the actual disease), as the symptoms of chicken pox can be serious to life-threatening.
As always, speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about the safety and efficacy of vaccines.
If you notice any symptoms of shingles, especially if you develop a rash, consult your healthcare provider within the first three days (72 hours). This is because antiviral medications that are used to treat shingles work best within 72 hours after developing a rash.
The first signs of shingles are skin irritation, tingling, sensitivity, itching, numbness, or pain on one side of the body. A rash and blisters indicate a more advanced form of the disease.
It takes about three to five weeks to recover from shingles. In some cases, you may develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a condition characterized by pain even after the infection is over. The risk for PHN increases the older you are.