7 Causes of Shingles

You have possibly experienced, or know someone who has had shingles. If so, you realize that it is a painful condition that causes a rash, itching, burning, and blisters. However, pain is usually the first symptom. In fact, some people experience the pain without ever developing a rash or other skin symptoms.

The disease is caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster. It is this same virus that causes chickenpox. Any person who has had chickenpox can also get shingles because once the chickenpox has run its course, the virus may lie dormant in the nervous system. Many years later, it can travel along the nerve pathways and resurface as shingles. An outbreak is usually associated with a weakened immune system and is more common in older individuals.

In this article, seven common causes of shingles will be discussed so that you can better access your risk and determine the actions you should take to prevent this painful condition.

1. Aging

If you have had chickenpox, the most common risk factor for developing shingles is your age. As we age, our bodies are not as resilient as they once were and it is easier for our immune systems to become compromised. About half of all people age 80 and over have suffered from shingles.

Not only are older people more likely to have an outbreak, but if they do, they are more painful and long-lasting than an outbreak in a younger person. The older a person becomes, the greater their chances of also developing post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN is described by many as a sharp stabbing or throbbing pain that can make it difficult to wear even soft garments. Pain from PHN can last for weeks, months, or even years.

In elderly people, the pain associated with shingles can also trigger a stroke or heart attack, especially within the first week of the outbreak.

Because of the risk and complications associated with aging and the virus, the CDC recommends that all people age 60 and over should receive the shingles vaccination. The vaccine is recommended for everyone even if you do not recall ever having chickenpox because it is estimated that over 95% of Americans have been exposed to chickenpox in their lifetime.