Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Shingles vaccine available

A vaccine for shingles: People over 60 should get shingles vaccine: CDC – do I ever wish we had that two years ago and that I was targeted for it, even though I'm still a good number of years away from 60. In May 2005, I was 44 years old and I had the unfortunate experience of having shingles. I didn’t even know what it was until it was too late to do anything about it.

Luckily (?) for me, the shingles were around my belt line. I know people who have had them on the face and suffered severe consequences because of it; all I had was a horrible itchy, painful, awful rash on the waist. I also didn’t realize how sick you could feel with shingles. I thought it was just a rash thing, but it really does affect your whole body.

There are some misconceptions about shingles so let’s see if we can clear up some of them.

First, the medical term for shingles is herpes zoster. The virus itself is from the chicken pox. If you have not had chicken pox, you can’t get shingles. This is why so many people are proponents for the chicken pox vaccine, particularly from those of us who have had shingles.

Once you have had chicken pox, the virus lives in your body for the rest of your life. For most people, the virus lies dormant for that entire time. For some, it flares up, particularly in times of stress – either physical or psychological. This flare results in shingles. It used to be that if someone younger than 60 had shingles, doctors worried about cancer or some other immune deficient illness because it does happen if your body is under stress.

Although having shingles more than once isn’t common – it can happen.

The signs of shingles are very typical. The rash starts with tiny round plaques, spots that can be itchy. Some people feel a burning or itchy rash along the area before the spots begin. The virus follows the nerve path as it leaves the spine – therefore you have will have the rash on one side of the body, but not on the other. The plaques begin to blister and then crust over.

Shingles is and isn’t contagious. If you haven’t had chicken pox, someone with shingles can pass the virus to you and you will develop chicken pox – not shingles. If you have had chicken pox, you cannot catch shingles from someone who has it. However, once you have had chicken pox, you always have the potential of developing shingles. The contagious period covers from the time the blisters start to form to when they are crusted over.

People who catch shingles early enough may benefit from anti-retroviral medications, but otherwise there isn’t much that can be done. Standard pain relievers may be recommended by your doctor.

The strong push towards vaccination against shingles has more behind it than just wanting to prevent the discomfort of shingles. Some people who have shingles develop post-herpetic neuralgia after the rash has healed. This is a painful, deep, nerve pain that continues along the route of where the shingles rash was, although there are no longer any lesions or signs of a rash. This pain can range from bothersome to debilitating.

I have to admit, I never really thought about shingles and how it may affect someone until I had the misfortune of having it. Oddly enough, once I had it, I learned of so many more people my age who also had it.

News for Today:

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