Front Page
 

Blue Cross Medicare AdvantageSM wellness benefits
Researchers discover mutated gene that prevents diabetes
Medical ID bracelets can save your life
Get preferred pricing at these pharmacies
Save with generic drugs
Get a free workout booklet
Blue365 deal: Walkadoo
 

Fight diabetes with good nutrition
Tips for taking your medicine right
6 paths to a happier life
Get moving for better health
 
Beware of food-drug interactions
Antioxidants for good health
Protect your eyes from the sun
 
Is it more than a senior moment?
Tips for bolstering your memory
How to get more for your vacation bucks
Readers' stories of retiring and finding themselves anew
Drug companies collaborate on research
China's Terra Cotta Warriors come to Indianapolis
'LifeTimes' wins design award
Learn about Hope Paige, maker of fashionable medical ID bracelets
Learn about HealthWays, creator of the Walkadoo social walking program
BCBSNM social responsibility report
Your letters to "LifeTimes"
 
 
Play our 'Mystery Game'
Crossword puzzle
Sudoku puzzle
Word search puzzle
 
 
Medicare Basics
Recent News
Current Issue
Previous Issues
About LifeTimes Newsletter
Sign up for LifeTimes email updates
 


  facebook twitter youtube
  Learn more


 
Share |
Your Health

Should you get a shingles shot?

Should you get a shingles shot?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says roughly 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with shingles each year. They suffer severe pain and a localized blistering rash. For them, it's easy to decide to get a shot that could lessen symptoms that can last months, even years.

For others, the decision may not be so simple. Consider:

Shingles is a reactivation of chickenpox viruses Varicella zoster or Herpes zoster, which can be dormant inside nerve cells for decades after a case of chickenpox. The shingles vaccine is aimed at preventing this reactivation. So far, data shows the shingles vaccine is effective in reducing the occurrence of shingles about half the time. It does better against a longer-lasting pain, called "post-herpetic neuralgia," or PHN, (which can persist after the shingles rash has resolved), preventing it 66 percent of the time.

If shingles recurs despite shots, the medicine may still help reduce the severity and length of zoster episodes.  The CDC says those who have had shingles still should get the shot. Why? Because there's a chance the shingles was misdiagnosed the first time, the vaccine's "punch" wanes over time, and some people who have had shingles suffer second episodes.

Help guiding your decision

  • Anyone who had chickenpox as a child can get shingles. The virus causing chickenpox lingers near nerves and can erupt into shingles at any time in adulthood. Nobody knows what reactivates it.
  • There's no way to know who will get shingles. But the older you are, the more likely you are to get it. Immune systems become less effective with age. That's why the CDC urges older people to get the shot. 
  • Shingles occurs in two phases. The milder form starts with a rash on the face, neck, or torso. Rashes turn to fluid-filled blisters that crust over and fall off. This usually lasts between three and five weeks. For those with the PHN version of shingles, intense pain comes next. These folks can't stand the touch of clothes or bedding. The pain can continue for months or years.
  • In the worst cases, vision can be threatened if the affected nerve root supplies a particular nerve to the eye, causing Herpes Zoster Opthalmicus. This requires immediate medical attention.
  • Shingle rashes can sometimes develop bacterial "super-infections" which, if on the face, may lead to disfiguring scarring.
  • Some people shouldn't get shingles shots. They include pregnant women; people with immune systems weakened by HIV/AIDS, lymphoma or leukemia, or people taking immune-system suppressing drugs; chemotherapy, and in certain other situations when the immune system is compromised.

Ask your doctor if you should get a shingles vaccine.