Chicken Pox Elderly
Chicken pox in the elderly is not very common, as most people get chicken pox when they are young and don’t ever get it again. However, this does happen in rare cases and is more life-threatening the older that you are. There is a higher risk that you can have complications, like getting a bacterial infection, which can cause pneumonia, leading to death.
However, as chicken pox is not very common in the elderly, a virus that is caused by chicken pox can develop after having chicken pox. This is called shingles, and it comes from the dormant virus that lies in the body’s nerve tissue. As people get older, the possibility of shingles forming is higher, affecting 20% of people during their lives. Over 500,000 people will get shingles in a year, and there is research being done for a vaccination to prevent it.
What exactly is it?
Shingles is a rash or blister outbreak on the skin, which is caused by the chicken pox virus. The first sign that you have shingles is usually tingling or burning pain, and sometime itchiness or numbness, in one spot and on one side of your body.
Up to a week later, the rash with blisters, which is similar to chicken pox, will appear on one location of your body. The pain from shingles can be either intense or mild, and some people just have itching mostly, although some can feel pain from the lightest breeze or touch of their skin. The most common place that you can find shingles is in a band, which is called a dermatome, across one side of the body’s waistline.
Anybody who has had the chicken pox virus before is at risk of having shingles when they get older. Scientists believe that some of the particles of the virus leave the blisters, moving into the body’s nervous system. When the virus is reactivated, it will move back down to the skin, multiply, erupt into a rash, and then form shingles.
Antiviral drugs can be used as treatments for the pain during and after shingles, just like for use when chicken pox are developed. There are other treatments to use for postherpetic neuralgia that include topical agents, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and steroids.
For almost everyone, the lesions will heal and the pain will subside from three to five weeks. The blisters will not leave any scars, however, this virus is a serious threat for people who are immunosuppressed, like those who have HIV or are receiving treatments for cancer that weaken their immune system. Others who are vulnerable are those who receive an organ transplant, because they are taking drugs that suppress their immune system.
The shingles virus can be passed to people, such as children, who haven’t had chicken pox before. However, they will not develop shingles. Instead, they will develop chicken pox. This virus also doesn’t work the other way around, where chicken pox can give someone shingles, as shingles is developed from the virus being hidden in your body.