The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people age 60 and older should be vaccinated against shingles, or herpes zoster, a condition often marked by debilitating chronic pain.
The varicella zoster virus-the same virus that causes chickenpox-causes shingles. Even after you recover from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your body, often for many years, until it reappears as shingles. Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles. That means 95 percent of adults are at risk. CDC recommends a single dose of the zoster vaccine, Zostavax, for adults 60 years of age and older even if they have had a prior episode of shingles.
Researchers have found that, overall, in those ages 60 and above the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles by about 50 percent. For individuals ages 60-69 it reduced occurrence by 64 percent. The most common side effects in people who received Zostavax were redness, pain and tenderness, swelling at the site of injection, itching and headache.
The risk of contracting shingles increases with age starting at around 50, and is highest in the elderly. Half of people living to age 85 have had or will get shingles. The risk of experiencing chronic pain also increases with age.
Shingles was a contributing cause in the death of my mother some years ago. A vaccine wasn’t available then. It is now. Take care of yourself: Get vaccinated against shingles.
- Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles. That means 95 percent of adults are at risk.
- Approximately one-third of the U.S. population will get shingles.
- More than half of older adults do not understand the seriousness of shingles and its complications.
- Among those who get shingles, more than one-third will develop serious complications. The risk of complications rises after 60 years of age.
- Appropriate and immediate treatment of herpes zoster can control acute symptoms and reduce the risk of longer term complications. Starting anti-viral medication within 72 hours of the onset of shingles can reduce the pain and the length of time the outbreak lasts.