TOMS RIVER, NJ, JANUARY 5, 2009 – Each year, more than one million American adults are diagnosed with shingles, also called herpes zoster, a painful skin rash caused by the varicella virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. For about one in every five people who get shingles, severe pain can develop even after the rash is gone. The pain is called postherpetic neuralgia, a condition that affects nerve fibers and skin.
On Thursday, January 22, Community Medical Center neurologist Gerald J. Ferencz, MD, will present a lecture on postherpetic neuralgia, or pain from shingles, at 2 p.m. at the Lighthouse, 591 Lakehurst Road in Toms River. The program is free, but pre-registration is requested by calling 1-800-621-0096.
Dr. Ferencz will discuss the different treatment options for shingles pain, which for older adults, can become severe. Shingles most commonly occurs in adults over age 50, and the risk of getting shingles increases as a person ages. People who have medical conditions that keep the immune system from working properly, like cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or people who receive immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids and drugs given after organ transplantation are also at greater risk to get shingles.
Shingles is not passed from one person to another, however the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles can be spread through direct contact of the rash. It is not spread through coughing, sneezing or casual contact. To prevent the spread of shingles, patients should keep blisters covered until they develop crusts, which at that time, they are no longer contagious. Do not touch or scratch shingles and wash hands often to prevent the spread of the virus.
There are many medicines to treat shingles, and should be started as soon as the rash appears to help shorten the illness. Patients should contact their physician or health care provider at the first sign of a rash.
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