Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, affects nearly one in three people in the U.S. during his or her lifetime. The condition causes a blistering rash on one side of the face or body and can lead to scarring and problems with eyesight. In some people, shingles can result in debilitating pain that lasts for weeks, months or even years after the rash clears.
Shingles Triggered by Chickenpox Virus
Shingles develops from the varicella zoster virus—the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus doesn’t go away. It lives dormant in your nerve cells. For unknown reasons, the virus can be reactivated. The result? Shingles.
“Anyone who carries the varicella zoster virus can get shingles,” cautions Kenneth Gallmore, D.O., an internist at Botsford Hospital. “There are factors that increase a person’s risk.” These include:
Vaccination Cuts Risk in Half
Dr. Gallmore supports the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that most people age 60 and older get the one-time shot. He explains, “Research shows that the vaccine reduces occurrence of the disease by about 50 percent in this group. It also can lessen the severity of symptoms in those who develop it.”
The vaccine is most effective in people ages 60 to 69. The vaccine also can work for people who have had shingles before. Although rare, it’s possible to get shingles more than once.
The CDC does not have a recommendation for shingles vaccine use by adults ages 50 to 59, but the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adults age 50 and older.
Common side effects of the vaccine include redness, soreness or swelling at the shot site. People with immunodeficiencies, such as those with leukemia or AIDS or those on corticosteroids, should not get the shot. Talk with your doctor about whether you should be vaccinated.