Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an attack of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nerve tissue and then, as we get older, it is possible for the virus to reappear in the form of shingles.
Shingles is estimated to affect 20% of people during their lifetimes. Close to 50% of those who live beyond the age of 80 can expect to develop shingles.
Although it is most common in people over age 50, anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for developing shingles. Shingles is also more common in people with weakened immune systems from HIV infection, chemotherapy or radiation treatment, transplant operations and stress. Chicken pox vaccination given to children reduces the incidence and severity of both chicken pox and shingles later in life.
Prognosis is good unless the infection spreads to the brain. Eventually, most patients recover completely. If shingles appears on the face, it can lead to complications in hearing and vision. For instance, if shingles affects the eye, the cornea can become infected and lead to temporary or permanent blindness. Another complication of the virus is postherpetic neuralgia, a condition in which the pain from shingles persists for months – sometimes years – after the shingles rash has healed. Bacterial infection of the affected area is another possible side-effect.
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles.
At the Center of Medical and Surgical Research in Havana, 15 adult patients suffering from herpes zoster were treated with injections of ozone/oxygen for a period of 15 days. All patients were completely symptom-free after the treatment and follow-up examinations a year later showed no relapse.
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