Chickenpox may be a childhood disease, but it can recur in adults —much more virulently — as shingles. Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the varicella-zoster virus, but the virus has very different effects in each case. While chickenpox results in an itchy, blistering rash, shingles first presents as pain, followed by a red rash after several days.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans will develop shingles. The risk increases with age: people over age 60 are at greater risk than younger people, and those over 80 have a 50% risk of developing the disease.
A weak immune system increases the risk of shingles. Antirejection medication after an organ transplant or steroid use, or undergoing radiation or chemotherapy increases the risk.
Not only are seniors far more likely to develop shingles, they are also more likely to have serious complications from it. The most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), pain that lasts persists even after the rash disappears. PHN can last for years, and is often debilitating. Both the risk and the severity of PHN is greater the older the person is.
Other complications of shingles in seniors include pneumonia, hearing loss, facial paralysis, blindness, toxic shock syndrome, bacterial infection, and encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain.
Shingles is also associated with a significant increase in stroke and heart attack in the week following the occurrence.
Antiviral medications can reduce the severity of an attack of shingles, but prevention is the best medicine. The CDC recommends that healthy adults above the age of 50 get vaccinated against shingles. Most insurance plans, including Medicare Part D, cover at least part of the cost of the shingles vaccine. For those who cannot pay, GlaxoSmithKline, the manufacturer of Shingrix, the preferred shingles vaccine, offers financial assistance.
At the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers, we offer the very best of care in the most appropriate and patient-centered environment. This means always listening to our residents and patients and respecting their capabilities, while helping them to achieve maximum functionality and independence. And always maintaining the highest professional and quality standards in our staff and our facilities. Our 25 years of excellent care have led to us being awarded a Best Nursing Homes award by US News & World Today, a 5-Star rating by USA Today, and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, among many other awards.
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