St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake has been placed on the disabled list with shingles (also known as postherpetic neuralgia). It is caused by the same virus that once led to the sufferer having chickenpox. Postherpetic neuralgia affects nerve fibers and skin, causing burning pain that lasts long after the rash and blisters of shingles pass.
A pain management specialist, who is also a member of SABR, wondered aloud if this is a first for a Major League Baseball player. He wrote the following on Tuesday.
“It is very odd for any young person whose immune system isn’t compromised such as one being treated for cancer to develop shingles, so I’m curious to see if we’ll receive any more info on Leake,” he said. “In my career as a pain management specialist, I can’t recall ever seeing anyone less than age 40 with this who didn’t have a compromised immune system – and even then it is still relatively uncommon in that age group. It is primarily a disease of those closer to or actually in the geriatric population.”
However, a simple Google search indicates a number of articles noting a rapid rise in shingles cases in younger people over the past few years. The potentially painful virus can hit when a person’s immune system is down and stress levels are up. A professional baseball pitcher could easily fit that profile.
The condition is clearly serious, even beyond its painful symptoms. Recent research suggests younger people with shingles have an increased risk of heart attack and other vascular complications.
The pain management specialist closed with the following advice. “If anyone isn’t aware, shingles is one of the most painful conditions around,” he said. “If you’re 60 or older and haven’t yet gotten the shingles vaccine, do yourself a favor and get it.”
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