Doc says older Filipinos face high risk of shingles
MANILA, Philippines—They appear as stripes of blisters that wrap around the area of infection, commonly on the sides of the torso. And they’re contagious, too.
The infection is called shingles and one in three people are likely to get infected by this debilitating disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Shingles is a viral infection that can cause a severely painful rash,” said Dr. Edsel Salvana, an infectious disease specialist, during a recent round table discussion to raise awareness about the disease.
“For older Filipinos, the risks are significantly higher,” Salvana said.
The varicella virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox, is the root cause of the disease.
“Once you’ve had chickenpox [even as a child], the varicella virus can lay dormant in your system for years and years, and reactivate as shingles when you are older,” Salvana said.
Shingles cannot spread from one person to another, but the varicella virus can be passed on from an individual with shingles to someone who has never had chickenpox, she added.
Postherpetic neuralgia or chronic pain is the most common complication of shingles, which can last for months, even years. This can lead to chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, depression, anorexia, weight loss and social isolation.
According to a UK study, 10 to 25 percent of shingles sufferers will develop zoster ophthalmicus.
“This happens when the blisters develop in the eye area, which can lead to serious complications,” Salvana said.
In these cases, patients are at risk of developing recurring eye disease and blindness.
Salvana said that age has been identified as the most important risk factor of shingles.
“Filipinos 60 and above face higher risks due to natural decline in immunity and because they have been likely to have had chickenpox,” Salvana said.
“There’s no way to predict when the virus will reactivate, who will have it, how severe the case may be and how long the pain may last.
“Ninety-five percent of adults over the age of 50 are at risk for shingles. This is a very alarming number given the fact that you never know when it will strike,” he said.
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