Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash. This most commonly occurs in older adults, but can affect anyone who has ever had chicken pox. The chicken pox virus lies dormant in a nerve root and at certain times becomes active again in the form of shingles. This can occur during times of illness, stress, or when the body’s immune system is compromised. Sometimes, there is no real reason why the virus becomes active again. In many people, the virus will never become active again and they will never have shingles.
The blistery rash usually appears in a strip or line on one side of the body after a few days of pain or tingling in that same area. Over days the clusters of blisters fill with fluid, then open and crust over. It may take weeks for the rash to fully resolve. The rash can occur on any part of the body, but is most dangerous if it occurs on the face, near the eyes. Treatment for shingles includes antiviral pills and pain medications. Most people with shingles get better and will never have shingles again. However, there is a possibility for scarring, vision loss (if the rash is in the eye area) and long term pain, also called post-herpetic neuralgia. Depending on the severity of the shingles, patients may experience pain for over a year after the rash heals.
Many people are concerned about “spreading” spreading shingles to others. Generally, people who get shingles do not “catch” it from someone else. It is their own previous chicken pox virus “waking up” again in their body. There is however, a slight chance the virus may be spread to someone who has never had chicken pox or had the chicken pox vaccine it in the past- if they come in contact with an active shingles rash.
A shingles vaccine is available for those who are 60 years old and over. Though this vaccine does not guarantee you will never get shingles, it does significantly reduce your chance of getting shingles, the severity of the shingles case and chance of developing long term pain. Those who have already had shingles can still get the shingles vaccine, as there is a small chance shingles may be recurrent.
IF YOU ARE AT LEAST 6O YEARS OLD AND HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE SHINGLES VACCINE, PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE TO INQUIRE ABOUT YOUR ELIGIBILITY.