Shingles of the Eye Cases Are on the Rise

AARP shared in a recent email post that a painful virus that can cause vision loss is affecting more older adults

The side effects of the shingles virus can range from extremely unpleasant to nightmarish, especially when the virus affects the eye. Unfortunately, shingles of the eye are rising dramatically, according to researchers at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center who found that the incidence has tripled since 2004.

The study results were presented at the 2019 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting in Vancouver recently and given how dramatic the findings are, says lead author Nakul Shekhawat, “we are now looking at overall incidences of shingles in that time frame and seeing if there’s a similar pattern.”

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which first enters the body as chickenpox (which nearly every adult over 40 had as a child) 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.

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