Keep shingles at bay

By Mina Radman • Published: March 22nd, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Shingles used to be a painful condition that only aging parents and grandparents needed to worry about. That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

Researchers say the number of young people who develop shingles has increased six-fold … and they’re not sure why. Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the virus responsible for chicken pox. The virus, herpes zoster, becomes dormant in the body after a case of chicken pox. Shingles develops if the virus becomes active again.

Anyone who ever had chicken pox can get shingles, but people usually develop the condition when they’re over the age of 60. But the number of new cases in young people, especially college kids, has got researchers alarmed. If you have your first case of shingles at 20, there’s a higher chance of recurrence over the next 60 or 70 years. In fact, some researchers actually say there’s a higher chance shingles will recur than occur in the first place.

There is a vaccine to prevent shingles if you’ve had chicken pox, but it’s only recommended for people who are at least 60 years old. If you’ve had chicken pox as a child and aren’t old enough for the vaccine, managing stress may help lower the chance of shingles. Researchers say high stress combined with low immunity appears to trigger the condition.

Shingles is not contagious, but you should not touch anyone’s rash or blister if they suspect they have shingles. People who come in contact with shingles and did not have chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine as children could develop a case of chicken pox.

As more people receive the chicken pox vaccine, the number of new shingles cases is expected to decrease. So if you’ve never had chicken pox, it may be time to check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.