The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends adults 50 years and older receive the shingles vaccine to reduce the chance of developing shingles.
Adults 19 years and older with weakened immune systems should also get two doses of shingles vaccine, due to a higher risk of getting shingles and related complications. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.
- Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine) requires two doses administered two to six months apart.
- Shingrix is recommended even in people who already had shingles, because the disease can recur.
- You can get Shingrix even if you don’t remember if you had chickenpox in the past.
- The risk of shingles and complications increases with age.
- The two doses of Shingrix are 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults 50 to 69 years old with healthy immune systems, and 91% effective in preventing shingles in adults 70 years and older.
- Shingrix is 91% effective in preventing post-herpetic neuralgia (a complication of shingles) in adults 50 to 69 years old with healthy immune systems, and 89% effective in preventing post-herpetic neuralgia in adults 70 years and older.
- Shingrix is between 68% and 91% effective in preventing shingles in adults with weakened immune systems, depending on the underlying immunocompromising condition.
- Protection from the Shingrix shingles vaccine stays above 85% for at least four years after vaccination.
- In people 70 years and older with healthy immune systems, Shingrix immunity remains high for seven years following vaccination.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is a painful belt-like patterned rash caused by varicella-zoster virus (the same virus that causes chickenpox). Shingles is more common in adults over 50 years of age and in people with conditions that weaken the immune system.
The varicella-zoster virus is a type of herpesvirus. Other herpesviruses include the herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores and genital herpes.
What Are Symptoms of Shingles?
Early symptoms of shingles include:
- Abnormal sensations such as tingling, itching, or burning on part of the skin on one side of the body
- Feeling unwell (malaise)
After one to two days, symptoms of shingles include:
- A rash of blisters in a band-like pattern on one side of the body
- The rash generally develops on the trunk (chest, abdomen, and back) but can occur on almost any part of the body
- After three to four days, blisters become open sores (ulcers)
- After 7 to 10 days, the sores crust over and are no longer contagious (in people with healthy immune systems)
- A rash near the eye may permanently affect vision if not treated
- Often starts days before the rash develops
- Can range from mild to severe and feel like sharp stabbing or burning
- Pain only impacts the areas of the skin where the rash develops but it can be severe and interfere with daily activities and sleep
- Is often worse in older adults than in younger people
Skin color changes and scarring may occur after shingles has gone away.
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Once a person has had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body and may be reactivated later in life, causing shingles.
Shingles itself is not transmitted from person-to-person, however, a person who never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get chickenpox from a person who has shingles.
What Is the Treatment for Shingles?
Treatment of shingles usually involves a combination of antiviral and pain medications.
- Antiviral medications
- Pain medications
- Antibiotics, if the rash becomes infected
- Home remedies to help relieve itching
- Wet compresses
- Calamine lotion
- Colloidal oatmeal baths
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