PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A growing number of younger people are being diagnosed with a painful disease that usually strikes the elderly. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl says it could be stress related.

Shingles is a painful rash of bumps and blisters that usually strikes elderly people. But Mark Edwards was just 42.

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“It really was probably one of the most brutal pains I can remember…a sort of raw nerve feeling. It is pretty awful,” said Mark. He is among a growing number of younger people showing up at the doctors with the elderly affliction.

“Shingles is an actual re-activation of the childhood chicken pox,” said Dr. David Colbert, a Dermatologist.

It’s chicken pox revisited. Mark had it as a kid, but you never get rid of the chicken pox virus. It lies dormant in your nerve cells until your immune system weakens, usually as you grow older, when it re-emerges as shingles.

“You know, it was confusing to me because when I heard shingles, I thought my grandparents don’t get shingles, what’s wrong with me,” said Mark.

Doctors say it can strike just about anyone, anytime. And shingles can last for weeks. In addition to that agonizing pain, there can be serious complications, including blindness.

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Doctors say stress is the main trigger for singles. Our bodies make stress hormones in response to stressful situations that can suppress the immune system.

“My physical state at the time was exhaustion. I was exhausted from work and from crazy hours, you know, going out with my friends, and all the stuff that is connected to that,” said Mark.

Anti-viral drugs can shorten the outbreak if started early, but the first symptoms often feel like the flu.

Doctors say the only way to prevent shingles is with the vaccine, and the age when it’s available has just been lowered from 60 to 50.

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Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS3

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