Many people in Indiana may harbor some misconceptions about the shingles virus. Unfortunately, some of these mistaken ideas come from healthcare professionals who are themselves improperly informed about the disease.
One of the most persistent myths about shingles, even within the medical community, is that only elderly people can contract it. According to WebMD, one woman called her doctor’s office to request an appointment after developing a suspicious rash. Because she was only 28 years old at the time, the people working in the office laughed at her when she expressed concern that she might have shingles. However, faced with the telltale skin lesions on the patient’s torso, the treating physician stopped laughing and correctly diagnosed the patient with shingles.
FACT: Anyone who has had the chickenpox virus can contract shingles
It is true that shingles occur most often among the elderly population, which is why the shingles vaccine is only recommended for those over the age of 60. However, shingles do not discriminate by age; anyone, even a child, who has had a case of chickenpox in the past is at risk for developing shingles. This is because the same virus that causes chickenpox, known as varicella-zoster, also causes shingles. After a person contracts chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body and may manifest as shingles later on, or possibly not at all.
FACT: Shingles does not always manifest as a rash
According to U.S. News and World Report, the painful, burning rash associated with shingles does not show up in all patients. Some people experience the pain as cramping or stiffness. In other cases, the rash shows up but remains otherwise asymptomatic. These atypical presentations may make shingles more difficult to diagnose.
FACT: Shingles is treatable
While there is no cure for shingles, antiviral medications can help to treat symptoms, decrease the outbreak’s duration and prevent post-infection complications. Administration of antivirals as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms increases their efficacy.