Shingles, (and I’m not talking about the kind on the top of your house), is a very painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After someone has had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in the nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, even many years later, the virus can reappear as shingles. In fact, shingles is most common in older adults or people who have weakend immune systems because of stress, injury, medications or other reasons.
Shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of your body. Common symptoms include pain, which is usually the first symptom, burning, numbness or tingling, a red rash that begins several days after the pain and fluid filled blisters that burst and then crust over. Some people with shingles also may experience itching, fever/chills, headache, achiness and fatigue. Shingles is considered contagious while the blisters are open and if someone has direct contact with them. Once the blisters are crusted over, you are no longer considered contagious.
There is no cure for shingles, however, there are antiviral medications that may be prescribed by your doctor that can speed the healing and reduce your risk of complications. It is advised by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), for anyone over age 50, to have two vaccines, the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine and the varicella-zoster (shingles) vaccine. By having both does not guarentee that you will never get chickenpox or shingles, however, these vaccines do reduce your chances of complications and reduce the severity of the disease.
For more information on the shingles vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov