Don’t mess around with shingles; getting vaccinated recommended

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles, reports Mary Rosner, Public Health Officer for Marinette County Health and Human Services.

“Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash,” Rosner said. “The first symptom is often a tingling feeling on the skin, itchiness or a stabbing pain. After several days, a rash appears as a band or patch of raised dots on the side of the trunk or face.”

“It then develops into small, fluid-filled blisters that dry out and crust over within a few days,” she said. The rash and pain usually disappear within three to five weeks. However, about one in five people with shingles will suffer long term nerve damage, which can cause excruciating and unrelenting pain for months and even years.”

Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks.

Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears.

Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face.

In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash. Shingles can affect the eye and cause loss of vision.

Other symptoms of shingles can include:

  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Chills.
  • Upset stomach.

Several antiviral medicines-acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir-are available to treat shingles, CDC officials said. These medicines will help shorten the length and severity of the illness. But to be effective, they must be started as soon as possible after the rash appears. Thus, people who have or think they might have shingles should call their health care provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

Analgesics (pain medicine) may help relieve the pain caused by shingles. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching, CDC officials said.

One out of three Americans will have shingles at some time in their lives.

There are an estimated 1 million cases each year in the United States. For people who live to be 85, the lifetime risk of getting shingles is 50 percent.

The risk increases with age.

Some people have a greater risk of getting shingles, reports the CDC. This includes people who:

  • Have medical conditions that keep their immune systems from working properly, such as certain cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus.
  • Receive immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids and drugs that given after organ transplantation.

People who develop shingles typically have only one episode in their lifetime. However, a person can have a second or even a third episode, CDC officials said.

The shingles vaccine – Zostavax -protects your body from reactivation of the chickenpox virus.

It isn’t 100 percent effective, but it significantly decreases the risk of getting shingles and reduces the pain and complications for cases which still occur.

No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine.

The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache.

“Those 60 and older should get the vaccine whether you’ve had chickenpox or not.” Rosner said.

– Iron Mountain Daily News