A Vaccination is Your Best Shot Against Shingles
"The worst pain I have ever experienced"--that's how many people who've had shingles describe it. Shingles causes a painful rash and may lead to vision and hearing problems or long-term pain. It has no cure. It's most common in people ages 60 and older but can affect anyone who has had chickenpox.
After someone recovers from chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant in the body. Years later, for reasons not fully understood, the virus may reactivate as shingles. "Shingles can appear when disease, stress or aging weaken a person's immune system," said Samantha Plasner, DO, a family practitioner on staff at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County.
Signs and Symptoms
The first signs of a shingles outbreak may be shooting pain and a burning, tingling or itching sensation on one side of the face or body. After several days, a rash of fluid-filled blisters--like chickenpox--appears in that area. Some people also experience fever, headache, chills and nausea.
The shingles rash usually clears up in two-to-four weeks, but a prescription medication can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Call your doctor at the first sign of symptoms. The medicine works best if it's taken within the first 72 hours.
"You should avoid contact with others if you are affected," said Dr. Plasner. "It is possible to spread chickenpox when infected with shingles."
Vaccination is Key
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles is to get vaccinated. The one-time vaccination, approved in 2006 for people 60 and older, has been found to prevent shingles about half of the time. It also can reduce the risk for further complications caused by shingles. Ask your doctor if the vaccine is right for you.
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For more information about Dr. Plasner or another Lourdes expert, call 1-888-LOURDES (568-7337) or visit the Lourdes Health System Web site at www.lourdesnet.org and click on "Find a Physician."