Monday, February 13, 2012
Shingles Vaccine- Starts Now at Age 50
Shingles, also known as Zoster, or Varicella Zoster, is a delayed eruption from the Chicken Pox virus. The chicken pox virus is in the herpes family of viruses, all of which stay in your body after the initial infection, and then show up later along a nerve pathway. In the case of shingles, the secondary eruption typically only happens once (versus herpes simplex that can cause many recurrences for years.) Roughly 10-20% of the population will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime.
What does it look like? Shingles is a very localized rash that occurs in a band pattern that wraps around one side of your body, most often the face, back or chest. The rash is made of clusters of red bumps that turn into blisters, then scab over. There is often tingling, stinging or burning pain in the affected area, starting before the rash even appears. The pain can range from mild to severe, and unfortunately, the pain can persist long after the rash has resolved in roughly 15% of patients- this is called Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN.) The good news is that early initiation of anti-viral medication can not only shorten the duration and severity of infection but also decreases your chance of developing PHN.
Additionally, we have a shingles vaccine available, and the FDA has lowered the age of recipients from 60 to 50. A study of 22,000 patients between the ages of 50-59 showed that receiving the vaccine reduced their chance of having shingles by 70%. Although the FDA has APPROVED it for use starting at 50, I should note that our current guidelines from the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) still recommends the vaccine be given starting at age 60, so please discuss this with your family doctor.
BOTTOM LINE: Consider adding a Shingles Vaccine to your your health prevention list when you turn 50!