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Who is at risk for shingles?

Shingles and chickenpox are both caused by the varicella zoster virus, so if you've ever had a case of the chickenpox, you have a chance of developing shingles at some point in your life. According to Medical News Today, most people who contract shingles  develop a painful, blistering rash. While the rash may appear anywhere on the body, it most commonly appears on the torso, often on only one side. Other possible symptoms of shingles include nausea, chills, weakness and muscle aches. Shingles is a fairly common condition, with approximately 1 million new cases reported in the United States, including Louisiana, every year.

Many people believe that shingles is a disease that only elderly people contract. However, while it is true that shingles is more common among the elderly population, people of all ages, including children, can develop shingles, and those with compromised immune systems may be at greater risk.

A case of shingles will usually resolve within 2 to 4 weeks. However, it can lead to other, potentially serious complications. Torn blisters exposed to open air can develop bacterial skin infections. The retinas can become infected if the rash is near the eyes, and vision loss can result. Encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, is a potentially life-threatening complication that occurs only on rare occasions. Postherpetic neuralgia, which is a condition of the nerves that can cause the pain of shingles to continue on a chronic basis after the initial infection has run its course, is more common, occurring in approximately one-third of shingles patients over the age of 60.

While there is no cure for shingles, antiviral medications may help to decrease the severity of the infection and prevent complications. Antivirals are most effective if taken promptly after symptoms first appear. However, because of the misconception that shingles only strikes older adults, doctors may misdiagnose a case of shingles in a younger patient and fail to implement proper treatment right away. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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