By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – Triggered by the same virus that causes chickenpox, shingles is a viral infection that results in a painful rash. In the U.S., currently one million people get shingles every year, and about one out of every three people will get shingles during their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite its prevalence among the general population, there are still various aspects of the condition that deserve to be better known. Here are five of them:
It can affect all ages: Although shingles typically affects older people, it can also occur in healthy younger persons and even children, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). The NFID also notes that those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV infection, AIDS, cancer or treatment with certain drugs are also at increased risk of getting shingles.
People can have the virus for years without symptoms: After someone recovers from chickenpox, the virus can enter their nervous system and lie dormant for years. Eventually, according to the Mayo Clinic, it may reactivate and travel along nerve pathways to the skin, producing shingles. The reason for the encore is unclear but may be due to lowered immunity to infections as people grow older.
A healthy immune system is the best prevention: For those under 60 who endured chickenpox as a child, the same healthy living habits that are generally recommended for good health apply when it comes to avoiding shingles, according to Prevention magazine. CDC recommends that adults aged 60 years or older receive 1 dose of zoster vaccine to help prevent the disease and its potentially debilitating complications.
The skin is not always the only organ affected: According to the CDC, shingles may also lead to serious complications involving the eye. Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation or death.
The pain may not end when the rash goes away: The most common complication of shingles is severe pain where the shingles rash was, says the CDC. Known as post-herpetic neuralgia, it is the pain that persists more than four weeks after the primary infection associated with a case of shingles has resolved. About 1 out of 5 people with shingles will get PHN and the risk increases with age. As people get older, they are more likely to develop post-herpetic neuralgia as a complication of shingles and pain is more likely to be severe.
“The good news is that PHN can be treated with a number of existing products. We are pleased to have a product in development for patients and healthcare providers to help manage this painful condition,” said Anthony Mack, CEO of SCILEX Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Malvern, PA. The company’s first product candidate is a topical lidocaine patch for the treatment of the pain associated with PHN which is currently under review by the FDA.