Why Is Shingles More Serious In Older Adults?


Shingles are known as a condition of the skin which is activated by a familiar virus. The typical symptoms for shingles include a tingling sensation or burning pain and a rash or band of blisters. These symptoms could last for weeks or even longer. However, among the older generation, shingles pose several extra dangers, which include a greater chance of stroke plus several other severe health complications.

Luckily, there is mediation to treat shingles and normally it could be stopped with a vaccination. According to studies conducted, the answer to an efficient treatment for senior adults that suffer from shingles is in essence a fast response. This would include a medical assessment followed up by rapid treatment. This treatment is usually with pain management therapy and antiviral medicines.

It is reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in every three individuals will suffer from shingles during some stage in their lifespan. They go on to state that the chance of complications increases exponentially after the age of sixty years. In the event that you are over the age of fifty years, then conservation with your primary health care provider regarding the shingles vaccination is warranted.


Herpes Zoster is the scientific term for shingles. It is caused as a result of the varicella-zoster virus. This is the identical virus that is responsible for chickenpox. In the event that the individual contracted chickenpox in their youth, the disease has endured, lying dormant in some of the nerve cells. When this is triggered, shingles are the result.

The normal shingles symptoms include fever, nausea, and headaches. Skin sensitivity to touch and fluid-filled blisters. It also includes an itchy rash and tingling and burning feeling on the skin isolated to a single section of the body.

A rash from shingles typically shows up on one side of the body as a band, normally on the face or the torso. This is a useful indicator when attempting to diagnose the condition. There could be the possibility of pain being felt for a small number of days. This is prior to any manifestation of blisters or any skin irritation. The pain usually lingers subsequent to the rash clearing up.

All of the aforementioned symptoms, in particular, the rash and pain have a tendency to be a lot worse in the senior population when compared to the younger generation. The pain could also develop into chronic pain for the elderly in the event the condition goes untreated for too long.

Why Is It More Severe Among Senior Adults?

One of the main reasons for this is that the older generation has a tendency to have immune systems that are weaker. This is in comparison to the younger individuals, making it more difficult for them to fight against the infection. Alongside the natural age-related deterioration in the functionality of the immune system, several other factors, which could include cancer treatment and life events that are stressful, could compromise the immune system of an older adult further.


For the younger individuals, a spell of shingles would often clear up in about two to three weeks, with a relatively low chance of enduring issues. This is not the case for older adults, as they could encounter life-threatening problems. This is even subsequent to the rash clearing up. Other serious complications which could impact older individuals include:

Post-Herpetic Neuralgia

This is probably the most serious complication of shingles. It is more probable to impact the older generation who have developed shingles. It has been confirmed to be a serious disability contributor in older individuals. Post-Herpetic Neuralgia is a nerve pain that is long-standing and occurs in the spot where the rash initially appeared. It is estimated that between ten to eighteen percent of individuals with shingles, progress to develop Post-Herpetic Neuralgia.

Loss Of Vision

In the event that shingles develop close to the eye, early diagnosis and treatment are critical. Shingles that develop in the eye are referred to as ophthalmic herpes zoster, which could result in scarring and loss of vision. Roughly ten to twenty percent of every case of shingles involves both or one of the eyes.


A study conducted in 2014 discovered that senior adults who developed shingles could face an amplified chance for stroke. This is for the initial six months subsequent to being diagnosed, and then three times the chance of stroke if the individual develops ophthalmic herpes zoster. The chance of experiencing a stroke was lesser in individuals who received treatment with antiviral medicines as compared to those that did not.


A similar type of vascular damage could disrupt the flow of blood to the brain and result in a stroke. Could also impact brain function in diverse ways. Shingles increase the risk of inflammation of the arteries which supply the brain with blood. This could lead to the individual developing dementia. A study conducted in 2017 uncovered that besides heart disease and other medical factors, which could impact the risk of dementia. Older individuals with shingles of the eye have nearly three times the risk of developing dementia. This is in comparison with their counterparts without shingles.


This is rare for shingles to directly result in death. It has been reported that shingles could account for the direct underlying cause of death in less than .000001 percent of the general population. Even though shingles might not be a fatal disease, it could result in conditions that could cause death, such as encephalitis and pneumonia. This is especially true for older adults whose immune systems have been damaged by treatments for illnesses such as cancer and AIDS.


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