The Effects of Shingles in an Elderly Person

Shingles is a viral condition most commonly seen in elderly individuals who have had chickenpox at some point in their lives. The National Institute of Health states that half of all people will have shingles before they turn 80 years old, and individuals between the ages of 60 years and 80 years are most likely to come down with shingles. Shingles is actually a recurrence of the chickenpox virus which has been dormant in the body. Shingles in the elderly can produce some very uncomfortable symptoms, and may even be dangerous if not watched and treated properly by a medical professional.

Stages of Shingles in Elderly

Shingles appears on one side of the body of an elderly individual and goes through three stages. When the virus is first reactivated, the elderly individual may feel some pain or a tingling sensation on one side of the body. After the discomfort is felt, an itchy rash will develop. Painful blisters follow the rash in an elderly individual with shingles.

Severe Pain Caused by Shingles

According to the National Institute of Health, elderly individuals who become ill with shingles are more likely to develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia. It occurs when an elderly individual experiences long-term pain in the area where shingles appeared, affecting the ability to do things even after the shingles has healed.

Vision Problems

If shingles appear on the face, the eyes and ears of an elderly individual may be affected. An elderly person with shingles on the face may have trouble seeing and hearing. The National Institute of Health states that irreversible blindness may occur as a result of shingles on the face.


Elderly individuals who develop shingles are at risk of developing infection in the affected areas. If bacteria gets into sore, a scar may result. Although it is rare, infections related to shingles can cause toxic shock syndrome or necrotizing fasciitis. Both of these complications are caused by bacteria getting into a sore of an elderly individual with shingles.


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About the Author

Julie Ackendorf has been a writer since 2007. She has contributed health, legal and parenting articles for various online publications. Ackendorf graduated from SUNY Empire State College, earning a Bachelor of Science in community and human services with a minor in child and adolescent development.