As harmless as the name sounds, anyone who has had shingles once doesn’t want to get the virus a second time. Affected people complain before the visible outbreak, such as grouped blisters on the chest, usually of discomfort. As Sabine Kurzidem, a specialist in dermatology and venereology at Skinmed in Lenzburg, explains, you are not necessarily immune after an infection. Additional infection cannot be ruled out.
More and more young people suffer from herpes zoster
As a general rule, people over the age of 60 more often suffer from herpes disease. Reason: In older people, there is a decrease in immune function and one becomes more susceptible to the outbreak of the virus.
You can still get the disease at any age. “Lately, younger patients have also been suffering from shingles,” says Kurzidem. The expert goes on to say: “An increase in the disease has been observed since the end of the corona pandemic” This is because the immune system of those affected continued to decline as a result of hygiene and isolation measures. As a result, you become more susceptible to infection.
“There is no shingles without chickenpox”
A pathogen called the varicella-zoster virus is to blame for the disease. Once you get infected, you get chicken pox. This usually occurs in childhood. After infection, you are protected from chickenpox, but you can become infected a second time with the pathogen and get shingles, which then develops into shingles. While chickenpox rages in the body, the virus lodges in nerve nodules, which are located near the spinal cord. They sleep there for life. As Kurzidem explains, the principle applies: “There is no shingles without a previous chickenpox infection or vaccination against chickenpox.”
If the body’s defenses are weakened, for example due to stress, strong medications or an immune deficiency, the viruses can become active again and trigger shingles. Sunbathing a lot can also act as a trigger.
Do I suffer from shingles?
Shingles usually becomes noticeable gradually. At first you feel battered and tired. “In addition, patients report unilateral burning pain in a circumscribed area of the skin,” explains the expert. In the further course, groups of blisters often appear on a reddened background, which heal under the formation of a scab.
You can find more symptoms and signs here.
“Those affected must take care of themselves”
“In young people, the disease is usually harmless and uncomplicated,” says Kurzidem. In older patients, however, the disease can cause severe pain due to acute nerve inflammation, which can develop into chronic and therefore lifelong pain. “This is called postherpetic neuralgia. The risk of this happening increases in patients from the age of 50 ”, she continues.
To treat shingles, drying and antiseptic poultices are used on the affected areas. “Those affected should also take it easy,” says the specialist. In addition, drugs that inhibit the multiplication of the virus can be used. “It is important that these are administered within 72 hours after the blisters start to form,” because, according to Kurzidem, it is only possible to counteract the multiplication of the virus during this time. “A shingles vaccine is also available,” Kurzidem continues. This is recommended for patients older than 60 years and those with an immunodeficiency.