Shingles are one of those things most people never want to experience and for those of us who have had them, never want to experience them again. It seems anyone who has ever had the chickenpox has the potential to develop shingles. Shingles is a viral infection that can cause blisters and severe nerve pain brought on by the varicella-zoster virus.
Shingles itself is not contagious in that you cannot give someone else shingles, but it can spread chickenpox to those who have not had chickenpox or have not been vaccinated for chickenpox. Small children and newborns are particularly vulnerable to the varicella-zoster virus.
Diag-nosing shingles is not always easy and is not always accompanied by the telltale rash and blistering. Some people develop internal shingles which are called zoster sine herpete or (ZSH). Both internal and external shingles can happen to anyone who has had the chickenpox in their lifetime. Once exposed to varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox, it can reactivate later in life causing shingles.
Younger people with healthy immune systems but had the chicken pox do not typically develop shingles. A weakened immune system due to the aging process is why it is common to see older or elderly folks develop shingles. Shingles is a somewhat tricky virus and can affect your eyes which is called ocular shingles and can cause permanent eye damage, blurry vision, and persistent eye irritation. People can also develop a bacterial infection from the blisters which can become infected. Infections from shingles can also lead to permanent scarring and lasting pain.
The standard treatment for shingles in recent years has been with anti-viral medicine which dramatically reduces the time of infection and in some cases reduced nerve pain quickly. The benefit of using an anti-viral treatment is to start it within three days of the start of the disease. By treating early, the shingles symptoms are kept in check and are milder and shorter in duration.
All these various symptoms are generally pretty nasty and most baby boomers have had the chicken pox, so a good way of avoiding developing the shingles at all is to get vaccinated. There has been a shingles vaccine available in the U.S. since 2006. This early vaccine trade marked Zostavax had good results and reduced the risk of developing shingles between 50 and 60 percent.
The development of a shingles vaccine took it’s next step in 2017 with the FDA with a new shingles vaccine trade marked Shingrix. This newer vaccine is a two-dose vaccine taken roughly six months apart. The most significant positive aspect to Shingrix is it seems to reduce your risk of developing shingles by over 90 percent. Shingrix is excellent news for older people who want to avoid the misery of shingles.
So who should get either vaccine? Anyone over the age of 50 should consider getting vaccinated. Most healthcare providers strongly recommend the vaccine for anyone over the age of 60. Side effects of the vaccine are usually mild and always check with your healthcare provider to ensure a shingles vaccine is okay with your current health condition. People who have not been exposed to the varicella-zoster virus should not get a shingles vaccine.
Keep in mind if you have not been vaccinated and think you have any of the following symptoms, check with your healthcare provider immediately:
Develop a rash with a distinctive cluster of fluid-filled blisters. Often these blisters create a line across your torso or create swelling around the eyes. Early symptoms can start with itching, tingling or burning sensations accompanied by headaches and fever. In some cases, it can be presented like the flu, even creating an upset stomach and other flu-like symptoms. So if you are over fifty and are not sure, always get checked out by your healthcare provider. Early diagnosis can help spare you a lot of suffering.
You can develop shingles more then once, and even if you have had shingles in the past, you can still get vaccinated to avoid future outbreaks. Now I am not a big fan, but in the case of shingles, it certainly can make a difference.
Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and certified health coach. For information, go online to jhanawellness.com.