Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles, is a painful skin condition caused by the reactivation of the Varicella-Zoster virus in patients with a previous history of chickenpox.
After recovery from chickenpox, the virus travels to the nervous system where it stays dormant. When it reactivates years later, it causes the condition we know as shingles.
Symptoms of shingles
Shingles symptoms begin with a burning sensation followed by a painful, localized rash. A stripe of fluid-filled blisters that wraps around the right or the left side of your torso then appears. Here are the common symptoms associated with shingles:
Red rash that appears after a few days after the pain starts
Sensitivity to light
Who should get vaccinated against shingles?
Shingles can be debilitating in older individuals, with effects like scarred skin, vision and hearing loss, peripheral motor neuropathy, transverse myelitis, and postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
Though shingles is not a life-threatening condition, it can be very painful and lead to complications. A vaccine can help in preventing shingles, while early intervention can decrease the severity of the disease and prevent further complications.
According to CDC recommendations, people above 60 years should vaccinate against shingles. There are two types of shingles vaccines that are present on the market, namely Zostavax (Live Zoster Vaccine) and Shingrix (Recombinant Zoster Vaccine).
Zostavax, which got CDC approval in 2006, decreases the risk of shingles by 51% and lowers your risk of postherpetic neuralgia by 67%. According to tests, the vaccine was effective in 38% of individuals above 70 years. On the other hand, Shingrix reduced the risk of developing shingles by 97%.
Is there a maximum age for shingles vaccination?
There is no maximum age to get the shingles vaccine. In fact, older people are at a higher risk and should get vaccinated. People above 60 years should receive the vaccine irrespective of whether or not they had chickenpox.
Most adults will not remember if they were ever affected by chickenpox. However, CDC data show that 99% of Americans have been affected by chickenpox.
The shingles vaccine can also be given to a person who has a history of shingles to prevent recurrences. For people already managing shingles, make sure the rash disappears before taking the vaccine. The shingles vaccine ensures immunity against the virus for up to five years.
Are there any side effects to taking the shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine does not cause serious side effects other than headache, swelling, pain, redness, and itching around the site of injection.
Some people may develop a chickenpox-like rash at the site of injection. There is no proof of contracting chickenpox from someone who has recently received the vaccine.
It is safe to be around children, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems after receiving the vaccine. However, the CDC recommends avoiding taking the vaccine if you fall into the following categories:
Patients with a weakened immune system
People who developed a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine and its components
Though it can be given in minor illnesses like colds, the vaccine should be delayed in patients with high temperatures (above 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit) and those with moderate to severe illnesses. If you are considering getting the vaccine, first consult with your healthcare provider.