If you’ve been to your local pharmacy or physician lately, you’ve no doubt seen signs for the Shingrix vaccine for shingles. So you may be wondering exactly what is this all about. Shingles is a painful, blistering rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. After the chickenpox clears, the virus stays dormant inside the body. If the virus reactivates, it travels along nerve pathways to your skin and produces shingles. Not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles; the risk of getting shingles increases with age. Most people who develop it have only one episode during their lifetime. However, a person can have a second or even a third episode.
While it isn’t a life-threatening condition, it can be very painful. Vaccines help reduce the risk; and early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.
There are two vaccines that help prevent, or minimize, shingles.
- Zostavax was the first available, and was recommended for people over 60. It’s a live vaccine given as a single injection.
- More recently, the Shingrix vaccine was approved by the FDA for all adults 50 and older. It’s a nonliving vaccine, given in two doses spaced two to six months apart.
Please know that neither vaccine guarantees you won’t get shingles; but if you do, they may lessen your risk of developing serious complications, such as severe nerve pain. Talk to your primary care physician about the vaccination to see if it is right for you.
Shingles signs and symptoms usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. These may include:
- Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
- Sensitivity to touch
- Red rash that begins a few days after the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Some people also experience fever, headaches, sensitivity to light and/or fatigue.
For some, symptoms can be intense. Most commonly, the shingles rash develops as a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your face or torso. Sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face. Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.
It is best to get treatment immediately. Most often, treatment plans include pain relievers and anti-viral medications. For the most intense pain, patients may need to see their primary doctor or neurologist.
If you suspect you have shingles, please call us immediately! The sooner you start treatment, the faster we can get symptoms under control.
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