According to The Mayo Clinic, shingles is, “a viral infection that causes a painful rash.” Shingles is very common in the United States. It’s estimated that 1 out of 3 people in the US will develop shingles at some point in their lives.
To put that in perspective, the population of Boston, MA is about 700,000. That means about 233,333 people in Boston will likely get the shingles virus during their lifetime.
Shingles—caused by the varicella-zoster virus or herpes zoster—is the result of having gotten the virus that causes chickenpox at an earlier age. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains in your body and can return as shingles.
You won’t always get shingles if you’ve had chickenpox, but if you’re over age 50, you’re at a higher risk of getting shingles.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for older people, the shingles vaccine is recommended.
When you’re young, it’s recommended that you get the chickenpox vaccine as it reduces your risk of developing shingles as you age.
Shingles can be a very serious disease, especially if you have a weakened immune system. The risk of complications rises if you are:
- You are over the age of 50—shingles is rare in people younger than 50 years old
- You have a disease that weakens your immune system, like AIDS or cancer
- You’re getting treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation
- You’re taking prednisone or other steroids
- You’ve recently had an organ transplant and you’re taking drugs that prevent the rejection of transplanted organs
- You’ve been severely stressed lately, especially emotionally stressed
- You’ve recently undergone major surgery
When the shingles rash develops, you can experience a variety of symptoms, some of which are mild or moderate, and some of which can be serious or debilitating, including flu-like symptoms.
Symptoms of Shingles
The symptoms of shingles include:
- A painful, red rash that appears as red patches on your skin and covers one side of your body, usually on your chest, waist, or back
- Skin that feels numb, itchy, tingly, or feels like it’s burning before the rash develops
- Fluid-filled blisters that are fragile and can break easily
- Muscle weakness
Shingles can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a month, but usually not longer than that.
Risk of Complications
Unfortunately, for some people, shingles can result in complications that range from moderate to severe.
Possible complications of shingles include:
- Damage to your eyes—sometimes, the blisters will appear on your face, and if they get too close to your eyes, they may damage your sight.
- Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which is, “a rare neurological disorder characterized by paralysis of the facial nerve (facial palsy) and a rash affecting the ear or mouth. Ear abnormalities such as ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss may also be present.”
- Postherpetic neuralgia—nerve pain that continues after shingles has completed its course.
Learn More About Clinical Trials for Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia in Boston
Have you recently had shingles? Are you suffering from postherpetic neuralgia? Are you interested in participating in a clinical trial? You may qualify if you meet specific criteria.