The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that almost 1 out 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles, also known as zoster or herpes, at some point in their lives and that 50% of those cases occur in women and men 60 years and older. With approximately 1 million cases reported each year, you can get shingles if you have ever had chickenpox as the varicella-zoster virus remains inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain.
The Mayo Clinic says symptoms can occur anywhere on the body but “most often appears as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or the right side of your torso.” While not life-threatening, the rash is very painful and complications from shingles include a long-lasting pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) that can last for months or even years.
Generally the first symptom is pain, and given the common location around the trunk, it can be confused with problems of the heart, lungs or kidneys. The course of the disease can be improved and shortened with early treatment and a vaccine can lessen the risk of getting shingles. While some people will never develop a rash, you need to see a doctor immediately if you suspect shingles.
According to the Mayo Clinic common symptoms include:
- pain, burning, numbness or tingling
- sensitivity to touch
- a red rash that begins a few days after the pain
- fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Other symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue and sensitivity to light. The CDC recommends that anyone 60 years or older should get a shingles vaccine even if they have already had the disease as it can prevent future occurrences.
The CDC states that, “Zostavax® is the only shingles vaccine currently approved for use in the United States.” They add that, “This vaccine reduces the risk of developing shingles by 51% and PHN by 67%.” A shingles vaccine requires just one dose and can be done by your doctor or at a pharmacy.
For informational purposes only, please consult your health care provider if you have any questions regarding your health.
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