Herpes zoster (also known as shingles) is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is characterized by a rash that reveals in the shape of a band or belt. The following questions will help to disclose the peculiarities of this illness and the prevention strategies.
Is there a particular reason for some people to develop Herpes Zoster and others not?
Although even a healthy person can have shingles, people with a weak immune system are more vulnerable to this disease. The immune system can be broken by various causes such as cancer, immune-suppressing medications, chemotherapy, or HIV (Albrecht, 2015). One of the necessary reasons for developing herpes zoster is a previous occurrence of chickenpox in a patient’s history after which varicella-zoster virus remains in the organism and can be activated even after decades.
What specific type of patients is more likely to develop Herpes Zoster?
Herpes zoster can develop in patients of any age. However, researchers agree that increasing age is one of the primary risk factors for the development of this disease (Cohen, 2013). Also, women are more subject to this virus than men, whites more than blacks, and people with herpes zoster in family history (Cohen, 2013). Moreover, the risk of complication increases for elderly patients with herpes zoster (Kawai, Gebremeskel, & Acosta, 2014).
What are the strategies for preventing possible complications from Herpes Zoster?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), “the only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain from post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is to get vaccinated.” Thus, they advise vaccination to people aged sixty and more because they are more subject to herpes zoster. Clinical researches approve the use of the vaccine to prevent herpes zoster for people aged fifty and more (Cohen, 2013). However, it should be mentioned that patients with “hematologic malignancies whose disease is not in remission or have received cytotoxic chemotherapy within 3 months, in persons with T cellular immunodeficiency, and in those receiving high dose immunosuppressive therapy” cannot be vaccinated (Cohen, 2013, p. 260).
Is it possible that other diseases/conditions could limit the patient’s abilities to overcome Herpes Zoster quickly?
Herpes zoster can be treated with properly selected medications. However, it causes some complications which do not let patients overcome the disease as quickly as possible (Janniger, 2017). One such disease developed as a complication of herpes zoster is post-herpetic neuralgia. It is a frequent complication that develops among half of the patients with herpes zoster older than sixty. Also, herpes zoster can stimulate the occurrence of “conjunctivitis, keratitis, corneal ulceration, iridocyclitis, glaucoma, and decreased visual acuity or blindness” (Janniger, 2017, para. 3). These conditions demand the prolongation of antiviral therapy.
Can patients aged 60 and older get Herpes Zoster more than once?
Yes, any person can get herpes zoster more than once. There is not much research on the issue of herpes zoster recurrence. However, the existing studies reveal the possibility of disease recurrence from 96 days to 10 years after the first case (Marcin, 2016). Nevertheless, the rate of people who get shingles for the second time is relatively low and varies between 5.7 and 6.2 percent (Marcin, 2016).
What diet/lifestyle changes can patients introduce to reduce the likelihood of Herpes Zoster occurrence?
Although vaccination is the only existing prevention for herpes zoster, some actions focused on the change of lifestyles and diet can reduce the risk of the disease. Since herpes zoster affects people with the weakened immune system, measures should be taken to strengthen it. Healthy lifestyles can be helpful in this case. As for the diet, it is advised to consume more fruits and vegetables (Diet for herpes zoster, 2013). On the other hand, it is better to avoid fats, oils, and sweets which are not good for general health and thus negatively influence the immune system.
On the whole, herpes zoster is a viral infection that can only be prevented with the help of vaccination. Nevertheless, it is possible to reduce the risk of its occurrence or recurrence due to a change in lifestyle and a healthy diet. Moreover, a healthy immune system will help to prevent complications in the case of herpes zoster.
Albrecht, A. (2015). Patient education: Shingles (beyond the basics). Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Shingles (Herpes Zoster) prevention and treatment. Web.
Cohen, J.I. (2013). Herpes zoster. The New England Journal of Medicine, 369(3), 255-263. Web.
Diet for herpes zoster. (2013). Web.
Janniger, C. (2017). Herpes Zoster clinical presentation. Web.
Kawai, K., Gebremeskel, B.G., & Acosta, C.J. (2014). Systematic review of incidence and complications of herpes zoster: Towards a global perspective. BMJ Open, 4, 1-19. Web.
Marcin, J. (2016). Shingles recurrence: Facts, statistics, and you. Web.