Truckee, CA -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/17/2014 -- The only way to reduce your risk of developing shingles is to get vaccinated. Adults age 50 years or older can receive a single dose of the shingles vaccine called Zostavax®. If you had chicken pox the virus is still in your body years later. Almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster. There are an estimated one million cases each year in this country. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles. “However the risk of disease increases as a person gets older. About half of all cases occur among people 60 years old or older,” remarks Dr. Reid. Particularly relevant in dentistry, one of three branches of the trigeminal nerve may be affected: the ophthalmic branch, the maxillary branch, or the mandibular branch.
Shingles is a painful skin rash and symptoms happen in stages. At first you may have a headache or be sensitive to light. You may also feel like you have the flu but not have a fever. Later, you may feel itching, tingling, or pain in a certain area. That's where a band, strip, or small area of rash may occur a few days later. The rash turns into clusters of blisters. The blisters fill with fluid and then crust over. It takes two to four weeks for the blisters to heal, and they may leave scars. Dr. Reid goes on to say, “It's possible that you could also feel dizzy or weak, or you could have long-term pain or a rash on your face, changes in your vision, changes in how well you can think, or a rash that spreads. Particularly relevant in dentistry, one of three branches of the trigeminal nerve may be affected: the ophthalmic branch, the maxillary branch or the mandibular branch.” If you have any of these problems from shingles, call your doctor right away.
Shingles is treated with medicines. These medicines include antiviral medicines and medicines for pain. Starting antiviral medicine right away can help your rash heal faster and be less painful. So if you think you may have shingles, see your doctor right away. People who have medical conditions that keep their immune systems from working properly, such as certain cancers and HIV, and also people who receive anti-rejection drugs, such as steroids and drugs given after organ transplants are also at greater risk of getting shingles.
Typically people who develop shingles have only one episode in their lifetime. In rare cases, however, a person can have a second or even a third episode. Dr. Reid explains, “Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body in a dormant (inactive) state. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.”