The eye shingles virus is increasing across the general population, but especially among senior citizens.
The study results were recently presented at the 2019 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting in Vancouver.
The side effects of the shingles virus can range from unpleasant to extremely painful, especially when the virus affects the eye. The shingles virus has tripled since 2004.
Eye Shingles Virus: What Is It?
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which first enters the body as chickenpox and never leaves. It stays dormant in sensory nerve roots, and in about one-third of us, reactivates later in life as shingles.
Its most common early symptoms are itching, tingling or pain, followed by an angry red rash along the nerve path traveled by the virus — the path depends on where the virus has been “sleeping.”
It often appears as an angry red rash on the torso, but about 20 percent of cases show up in the eye area on one side of the face — typically with redness on and around the eyelid, and sometimes on the forehead and scalp.
It’s most dangerous when it affects the cornea (the clear, front part of the eye), which can result in vision loss, and, in rare cases, blindness. It’s also very painful because the cornea has a dense concentration of nerves. The eye is one the most sensitive parts of the body.
Shingles is successfully treated with antiviral medication. But in about 20 percent of cases, it results in chronic pain that lingers long after the infection subsides.
It’s important to get treatment within 72 hours of noticing pain and redness in your eye. Get treated as soon as you suspect you may have shingles, preferably within 72 hours. Time is of the essence.
The increase in shingles cases may be attributed to the aging of the population. The aging process brings with it a weakening of the immune system. Seniors have a tougher time fighting off germs and viruses.
The good news is that the shingles vaccine is extremely effective.
The CDC (Centers For Disease Control) recommends that people 50 or older get the latest vaccine, called Shingrix. Shingrix is 97 percent effective in people ages 50 to 69, and 91 percent effective in those 70 and older.
The Shingrix requires two doses, the second dose two to six months after the first. There are some minor side effects of this vaccine — chills, slight fever, and lethargy, which last for a few days. But, it’s asmall price to pay to avoid a very serious and painful virus.