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SHINGLES CAUSES RASH, PAIN AND RESEMBLES CHICKEN POX

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QUESTION: I recently developed a rash and intense pain across the left side of my stomach. My doctor diagnosed it as shingles. What causes this disease and how long will the pain last?

ANSWER:. Herpes zoster (shingles) is due to a reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox and is probably caused by an age-related decrease in the ability to contain the virus. Persons with zoster frequently experience one to four days of fever, malaise, headache and pains before the onset of a skin rash that looks like chicken pox but is confined to one area of the body.Because the zoster virus lives in nerves, the rash follows the routes of the nerves that supply the skin. The pox typically become crusted in seven to 10 days, a sign of healing.

The principal complication of zoster is pain in the same area as the rash. Ninety percent of zoster patients age 70 or older have pain and 70 percent of those afflicted have pain lasting more than one month. In some, it is severe and even disabling.

Other less common complications include impairment of the nerves responsible for movement, infection of the spinal cord and covering of the brain, involvement of the eye or pneumonia. These ominous complications occur particularly in persons who have serious illnesses or are taking certain medications such as prednisone.

Treatment of zoster has been facilitated by the development of antiviral drugs such as acyclovir and vidarabine. These drugs are generally reserved for persons whose systems are impaired and who are thus at higher risk for complications.

QUESTION: With scandal rocking the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), can we expect to see any new housing programs for the elderly on the national level?

ANSWER: HUD Secretary Jack Kemp has a challenging job investigating the mismanagement and fraud. But while HUD is cleaning up its act, the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) has unveiled plans for a pilot program aimed at developing private housing options for the elderly.

Fannie Mae has allocated about $100 million for the development of four programs geared toward older adults. These housing options are not new, but the funds allocated for the pilot project should attract interest in them. These are:

- Granny flats or elder cottages, where you sell or rent a small, self-contained unit on your property to a senior.

- Housing-sharing arrangements, in which two or more unrelated persons share a house or apartment.

- Sale-lease back programs, under which homeowners sell but retain the right to reside in their homes.

- Accessory apartments, in which you modify your home to include an extra apartment for an older relative or renter.

QUESTION: I'm 46 years old and was shocked when my annual physical examination revealed diabetes. This is now being controlled by a change in diet. Otherwise, I am in good health. Please advise your readers to have their physician check for diabetes during their next visit. As I learned, early detection may save lives.

ANSWER: You are correct in noting that early detection is the first step in treating diabetes and preventing such serious complications