New Shingles Vaccination Recommended for Over 50 Patients

November 6,2017

Shingles is an extremely painful viral infection that effects about a million people a year in the United States. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same viral infection as chickenpox. Unfortunately, if you've had chicken pox, you have about a one in three chance of the same herpes zoster virus leading to a rash that usually forms as a cluster of painful blisters on your skin. An absolute cause of viral reactivation is unknown but shingles is considered to be preventable by vaccine.

After a person has had chickenpox, the herpes zoster virus can lie inactive in nerve tissue near the brain and along the spinal cord for years or even decades. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a broad stripe of blisters wrapping around either side of your torso. While early diagnosis and symptomatic treatments can help shorten the period of infection, a new vaccine for prevention has recently received endorsement by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A very noticeable pain is typically the first sign of shingles. Depending upon the location of the blisters, many patients describe the outbreak as one of the most intense pains that they have ever felt. Since the outbreak is often located on the trunk of the body, early pain symptoms can be mistaken for heart, lung or kidney problems. Although rare, some people experience shingles pain without developing a rash or blisters. In addition to attacking areas of the torso, shingles can occur on one side of the neck or face (sometimes around one eye).

Shingles is normally not life-threatening but until the blisters scab over, you are very contagious and should avoid physical contact with anyone who has not had chickenpox. Risk factors for reactivation of the virus include being over 50, having a weakened immune system, undergoing radiation or chemotherapy treatments and prolonged use of steroids like prednisone. Neither the chickenpox vaccine nor the shingles vaccine can guarantee you won't get shingles. But, you should ask your doctor about Shingrix for adults over 50, as well as chickenpox vaccination for children who have not had the disease.

To help prevent the painful occurrence of Shingles, contact PrimeMED to schedule an appointment at either location to discuss your best options with our board-certified physician.