- Shingles is more likely to affect people who are over 50.
- It is a common and often painful condition that will affect 1 in 3 of us at some point in our adult lives.
Abu Dhabi: Shingles is a common illness that can have a significant impact on quality of life, particularly for older and immunocompromised people, but an effective vaccine is available. However, a recent study has revealed knowledge about shingles and the vaccine is low, and few people have had the vaccination.
Following global trends, there is an increase in the number of shingles cases in the UAE due to an increase in life expectancy in the country and an increase in the prevalence of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and as part of post Covid-19 infection complications.
Singles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox.
Shedding light on serious disease
Prof. Salah Abusnana, Director of University of Sharjah Center for Diabetes and Director of Diabetes and Endocrine Center at the University Hospital Sharjah, told Gulf News:
”UAE study confirms the need for increased public awareness efforts around shingles. It is a common and often painful condition that will affect 1 in 3 of us at some point in our adult lives, according to a US study.
Typically, a blistering rash appears a few days later, on one side of the body only… Unfortunately, shingles can be very painful.
People often describe the pain as burning, shooting, stabbing or even constant unbearable itching. It usually takes between three and five weeks for the rash and other symptoms to heal, however some patients suffer prolonged pain or other complications.
"The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia, which causes burning pain in nerves and skin that can last for months.“
With regard to the actual and accurate figures for this disease, Prof. Salah Abusnana said: “We don’t have specific figures for the incidence of shingles in the Middle East. But from my experience, our rates are similar to those reported globally. After a person gets chickenpox, the virus stays dormant inside the body for life, usually not causing any problems or symptoms."
"As we age, our immune system naturally weakens over time, which may allow the suppressed inactive virus to reactivateTh. is could be why shingles is more likely to affect people who are over 50. People who have a weakened immune system are also at increased risk and likely to have a more severe case if they have an outbreak.”
Despite being a common condition, recent research has found that local knowledge about shingles and the vaccinaton rate is low.
The study’s researchers interviewed 420 adults living across the UAE. While nearly two-thirds said they had heard of shingles, only 2% had any deep understanding of the virus. Few knew that blisters (29%) and neuropathic pain (17%) were shingles symptoms.
More than three-quarters did not know there was a link between chickenpox and shingles. Drilling deeper, the researchers found that only 18% knew that having chronic illness, being older, or experiencing stress could contribute to a shingles disease.” Prof. Salah Abusnana said..
“When it came to the vaccine, only 15% had heard of it. Most people did not realise that the vaccine can reduce the incidence of the disease and that adults over 50 should be vaccinated. Less than 4% of the people surveyed had had the vaccination.”.. he added.
Tackling shingles requires a multi-faceted approach, he said.
“I found the lack of knowledge of shingles reported in the study surprising but was encouraged that 86% of people surveyed said they were open to learning more about shingles and the vaccine, with almost the same number saying they would have the vaccination if their doctor recommended it," he said.
The expert said a key takeaway from the study is that public awareness campaigns that underscore the importance of vaccination and highlight the impact of shingles are likely to empower individuals to make the most informed decisions about their health.
"We healthcare professionals also play an important role in encouraging people to have the vaccine, through recommendation, education, and addressing any concerns our patients may have. I urge everyone to find out more the facts about shinglesand how to prevent it. Talk to your healthcare provider for the most accurate information.”