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What Additional Health Complications Can Result from Shingles?

By Beth Brown, 9:00 am on

According to PubMed Health, approximately 50% of Americans will have had some form of shingles by the time they reach the age of 80. Because the likelihood of developing this rash is so high, it’s important for seniors receiving home care in Palm Beach to keep it in check to help prevent more serious health complications. If your senior loved one has developed shingles, here are a few additional issues that may follow if the rash is not properly taken care of.

Ongoing Nerve Pain

The shingles virus typically travels along the path of a nerve to the skin, where it erupts in a blistering, oozing rash along one side of the body. Because the nerves are involved, the rash can be extremely painful, making it difficult to engage in daily activities or even bear the touch of clothing on the skin. In some cases, the nerves are so damaged that the pain can last for months or even years after the rash subsides. The condition is called postherpetic neuralgia and is most often seen in individuals over age 50.

Cranial Nerve Complications

If the shingles virus attacks the nerves originating in your loved one’s brain, he or she may experience a variety of issues depending on which specific nerves are affected, including:

• Loss of vision in one or both eyes
• Pain, inflammation, and loss of movement in the nerves around the ears, mouth, face, and neck
• Loss of hearing or a ringing in the ears
• Dry mouth and loss of taste
• Inflammation leading to blockage of the blood vessels in the brain, resulting in a stroke

Systemic Rash

In most cases, the shingles rash is limited to a narrow band or patch along one side of the body. However, in rare instances, the rash can spread over large portions of the body. Once the rash becomes disseminated, it can affect internal organs, including the liver, heart, lungs, intestinal tract, and pancreas.

Secondary Infection

The blisters associated with shingles can fester and break open, which can pave the way for a bacterial skin infection. It is important for your loved one to avoid scratching the blisters to give them time to dry up and crust over. Cool compresses, calamine lotion, and baking soda can help dry the blisters so they heal more quickly. Prescription antibiotic creams and ointments may be necessary if the skin becomes infected.

There are many healthy habits your loved one can take on to help prevent the development of shingles. For ways to help your loved one better manage his or her health, turn to Home Care Assistance. All of our caregivers are trained in the Balanced Care Method, an evidence-based program that promotes healthy senior living. We also offer specialized Parkinson’s, dementia, and Alzheimer’s care for Palm Beach seniors who need more comprehensive care. For more information on our senior care services, call one of our experienced Care Managers at 561.429.8292 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.