Shingles is a painful viral disease that can lead to serious complications such as long-term pain, fatal encephalitis and increased risk of stroke. Despite the fact that 1 in 4 Swedes are affected, many are ignorant of the disease and how to protect themselves. Rolf Gustafson, docent in infectious diseases and vaccination expert at Doktor24, meets many people who have questions about shingles. Below he lists some common misconceptions.
1. I’ve never had chicken pox so I can’t get shingles!
Answer: 99 percent of everyone over the age of 50 has antibodies against chickenpox and can thus be affected.
2. You can only get shingles once in your life!
Answer: Unfortunately, you can get the disease several times.
3. Shingles only affects the old and sick!
Answer: It is false, anyone can be affected although most are over 50 years old. The risk increases if you have a weakened immune system, which everyone can get during periods of other illness or stress.
4. Shingles is painful but not dangerous!
Answer: Unfortunately, that is not true, shingles can lead to serious and long-term health problems. The most common complication, which affects about 20%, is severe pain for months or even years. Other complications are pneumonia, meningitis and an increased risk of stroke. Facial shingles can lead to blindness. In addition, about 10 people die each year from encephalitis, which is a complication of shingles.
The only way to protect yourself from shingles is to get vaccinated. Sweden is also one of the few countries that has access to the best type of vaccine that has been shown to provide very good and long-lasting protection. “I urge everyone over the age of 50 to treat themselves to protection against shingles, especially since we in Sweden are lucky and have access to an effective and safe vaccine that prevents you from contracting shingles,” says Rolf Gustafson, docent in infectious diseases and vaccination expert at Doktor24.
Shingles, (herpes zoster) is an infectious disease that can affect those who previously had chickenpox and manifests itself in the form of painful skin rashes. The most common is a rash on the chest, abdomen or face. The risk of shingles increases with the natural deterioration of the immune system that comes with increasing age: two-thirds of all those affected are over 50 years of age, and after the age of 85 more than half have had shingles. Typical symptoms, 1-5 days before the rash, can be pain, itching, tingling or numbness. The rash often forms a belt on either the left or right side of the body and causes a pain described as aching, burning, stabbing or stabbing. Most commonly, the rash is on the chest, abdomen or face. Headache, fever and general malaise can also be symptoms. Then the blisters form, to turn into scabs within 7 to 10 days. The skin normally recovers within 2 to 4 weeks.
There is no cure for shingles, but there is antiviral treatment that prevents complications and speeds recovery. In order for these medicines to have the best effect, it is necessary that the treatment is started already within 72 hours after the first blisters on the skin make their debut.