Most adults in Ireland have had chicken pox and so are at risk of developing shingles, a new awareness campaign has warned.
Shingles is a viral disease of the skin and nerves. It is caused by the reactivation of the chicken pox virus and as an estimated 95% of Irish adults had chicken pox when they were young, they are at risk.
Men and women have a one in four chance of developing shingles, which is characterised by a rash that affects one side of the body, often the torso. This rash can be painful and other symptoms can include headache, fever and tiredness.
While most people will not experience any long-term effects, complications can arise, such as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is long-term nerve pain that some people experience after the shingles rash has healed. It can last weeks, months or even years.
Other complications include scarring and skin infections.
This new campaign is urging people to be aware of shingles and is supported by Age Action and Chronic Pain Ireland.
"Shingles can greatly affect your quality of life. If you experience long-term pain from shingles, for some people even a slight breeze against the skin can be painful and distressing. The majority of people who experience PHN say they have less enjoyment of life and find their sleep, work and social life disrupted. The older you are, the more likely you are to have long-lasting nerve pain," commented Chronic Pain Ireland chairperson, John Lindsay.
Shingles occurs more frequently in people over the age of 50, and it also tends to be more severe among older people.
"Because the immune system weakens with age, our chances of developing shingles increases as we get older. Two-thirds of cases are among the over 50s.
"The condition is also more severe in people over 50 so if you've had chicken pox as a child, it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms talk to your healthcare professional," noted Justin Moran of Age Action.
The campaign is reminding people that they can only catch shingles if they have previously had chicken pox. If you have never had chicken pox, you cannot catch shingles from someone. However you can catch chicken pox from someone with shingles (if you have not had chicken pox previously).
People are also reminded that they can catch shingles more than once.
For more information on shingles, click here