If you had chickenpox as a child or a young teen, you may think you're done with it. But without realizing it, you could be at risk for getting the disease known as "shingles".
In simple terms, the virus that caused your chickenpox can remain dormant in your nervous system. When your immune system is healthy and strong, it usually keeps the virus at bay. Aging and stress factors, however, can weaken your immune defenses and reactivate the virus, resulting in shingles.
Unfortunately, many people are either completely unaware of the disease, know very little about it and/or aren't aware of the risk factors.
A recent national survey by the American Pain Foundation found that over half of the respondents were not sure of the risk factors for shingles. Many of the respondents did not know about the relationship between chickenpox and shingles either.
While anyone who has had chickenpox can potentially develop shingles, 50% of the cases are among people over the age of 60. Stephen Tyring M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, noted that the risk of shingles increases with age.
"With each decade, a person's immunity weakens, so that by 60 years of age, the likelihood of shingles significantly increases," says Tyring. "In fact, one out of two people who live to the age of 85 will have had shingles." (1)
In addition, if you have a family history of shingles, you may be more susceptible to developing the disease. In a report published in the journal Archives of Dermatology, Tyring and his research team identified family history as one reason why some people might be more susceptible to shingles. (2)
According to Tyring, "Your risk is double that of someone who has had no relatives with the virus. The estimate, however, is most valid for first degree relatives such as a mother, father or sibling."
The onset of shingles isn't always noticeable. You may experience a tingling sensation, itchiness or varying degrees of burning and pain. During the initial days of symptoms, blisters will burst and a rash will form, usually on one side of the body or face. The rash will typically heal in two to four weeks. In some cases, there might be longer-term nerve pain which can persist for months or even years after the initial rash has healed. The older you get, the more at risk you are for long-term nerve pain, which can be quite severe.
Although there is no known cure for shingles, there are ways you can relieve the symptoms.
For the rash, keep your skin as dry and clean as possible, which helps reduce the risk of bacterial infection. You may want to wear loose-fitting clothes to minimize any rubbing against the skin from clothes that are too tight.
To help boost your immunity to the virus that causes shingles, consider taking up Tai Chi, which is a traditional Chinese form of exercise. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that Tai Chi may help older adults avoid getting shingles.(3)
Depending on the severity of the pain, an all-natural solution like Isoprex may provide relief. Isoprex not only helps relieve pain, it works safely and gently to stop dangerous inflammation in its tracks as well... without the side-effects or worries of over-the-counter and prescription pain medications.
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