What are the possible side effects of shingles among the elderly?

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Shingles is the reactivation of the herpes zoster virus or chickenpox and usually occurs among the elderly. The side effects of this condition can cause a lot of discomfort. The herpes zoster virus can reactivate due to the aging process or an impaired immune system. Individuals at the age of 65-74 can acquire shingles while those 75 years old and older can also acquire the condition. If you want to learn more about this condition, read here.

Red itchy rashes

The red-colored rashthat is distinctive of shingles will later on progress into crusted patches within two weeks. Take note that this rash can become very itchy and highly infectious. Others can acquire the virus by direct contact with the skin lesions of an infected individual.

The rash can manifest on the trunk of the body or on the trigeminal nerve of the cheekbone. In case the rash develops on the face, it can also affect the ophthalmic nerve and can lead to eye complications and even blindness in severe cases.

The rash can manifest on the trunk of the body or on the trigeminal nerve of the cheekbone.


Pain is also an early side effect of the reactivated shingles virus. In most cases, the pain can occur before the rash and consequently the individual can be incorrectly diagnosed with a heart attack, ulcer, appendicitis or other similar conditions. Nevertheless, the pain can be managed with opioids and lidocaine as well as anticonvulsant medications.

The pain might be caused by the inflammation of the nerves directly triggered by the virus. The elderly face a higher risk for intense pain. The pain is described as piercing, stabbing and throbbing. It is usually mild in the morning and steadily builds up throughout the day regardless of the medications used for treatment.

Post-herpetic neuralgia

Post-herpetic neuralgia is pain that occurs more than three months after the shingles rash heals. Some adults with acute herpes zoster who are older than 60 years old develop this condition. The symptoms of shingles are predictive for post-herpetic neuralgia such as acute pain and severe rash. Take note that this can occur more frequently in women.

When it comes to post-herpetic neuralgia, even a slight touch on the skin or clothing that brushes against the individual can instigate severe pain. In some cases, the individual might think that he/she is imagining the pain since the rash has already healed. Nevertheless, the pain is actually present.

The condition is managed with topical medications such as lidocaine as well as tricyclic antidepressants due to their sedating effect on those who often have difficulty sleeping due to the pain. In case the tricyclic antidepressants do not work, selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are given aside from the opioids or anticonvulsants. Other treatment options include transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and acupuncture. Even relaxation therapy is also beneficial to this condition.

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