Stress, shingles and Generation Y - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Stress, shingles and Generation Y

Shingles cases are up across the board, in all age groups. Shingles cases are up across the board, in all age groups.

College life for Caroline Radaj was fun, but stressful. That was before she got shingles.  

"It felt like either I had a pinched nerve or that just someone was constantly stabbing me," she said.

When a rash combined with the pain, a campus doctor was surprised to confirm it was shingles.

"It's something that happens in older people, so for it to happen to a young college student, they were a little bit baffled at that," said Radaj.

Dr. Scott Harris of Decatur is a specialist in infectious diseases. 

"Shingles is a very painful rash, and it only develops in people who previously had chickenpox," said Harris.

He said the varicella virus stays with you for the rest of your life. 

"It's actually uncommon to have it over and over, although some people do. Most of the time people have just one episode, but then they have some residual pain that lasts for a long time," he said.

Researchers say cases are up across the board, in all age groups.

Barbara Yawn is one of those researchers. 

"Instead of maybe one every three or four months, you may be having two or three each month in the college that stands out," said Yawn.

Researchers don't know why it's on the rise.

"We've looked at several factors like are there more people that are immunosuppressed? Was it around the time of the chicken pox vaccine in children? That isn't true. Did it have to do with when antivirals were introduced? No," said Yawn.

Basically at this point in their research there are more questions than answers. They also don't know if these younger patients will get it again.

"If you've had shingles before, that's not a reason to stay away from the vaccine," added Harris. 

Harris said while it's not as common in college age kids, it usually strikes someone with a compromised immune system. The vaccine is only used on people over age 50, which is not much comfort to people like Caroline.

"Hopefully, I don't get it again," she said.

Researchers are hopeful for more answers soon, and they expect the numbers of younger patients to drop because many had the chicken pox vaccine.

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