Shingles Vaccination: Got Yours Yet?
Shingles Come Without Warning
Too late to play it safe.
All of a sudden I had such a burning down my back! There was no rash but it felt like there should be—and the pain! I called my doctor up right away and went in to see her. She said it sounds like shingles.
What? I had only recently thought about shingles and wondered if I should have the vaccine. Was I old enough? Did I wait too late? I was devastated; had something been warning me and I just wouldn't listen?
The doctor said she would write me a prescription for an anti-viral drug, but that I should go pick it up only if a rash appeared, as she assumed would happen. The rash would mean I had shingles. It was a weekend, so she wanted me to have medication available as soon as the rash appeared; then I should get back in to see her first thing on Monday.
Do Not Let Time Run Out
What do you think about this vaccination and will you or have you received it?
Shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection of the nerve roots. It's an infection most commonly seen in people 50 and older although it is also common in people with weak immune systems such as people living with HIV. Anyone who has had chickenpox are candidates to get shingles.
Once we have had chickenpox this virus lays dormant in our body’s nerve tissues and though our immune system keeps this virus down it can re-energize in the adult body in an altered form of infection call shingles.
Shingles affects one in five adults who were infected with chickenpox as children, particularly those who are immune inhibited, especially from cancer, HIV, and other like conditions.
Every year more than one million people just in the in the U.S. suffer the shingles outbreak, which is a blistering rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. These are fluid filled blisters than can come with terrible itching and pain. Shingles symptoms though can act like other conditions, anywhere from an allergic drug rash to a poison ivy outbreak.
- Usually, only one side of the body is affected. Rash and blisters that form with shingles are generally limited to one side of the body. They will appear in clusters or linear bands but they do not cross the mid-line of the body.
- You have already had chickenpox, are over the age of 50, or have a suppressed immune system as is the case in HIV or diabetes. In order to have shingles, the person must have had chickenpox sometime in their lifetime. People over the age of 50 or have a weakened immune system as is the case with HIV-positive people are at an increased risk of having a shingles outbreak.
Prodromal and Eruptive
Phases of shingles
Who should be vaccinated and when?
The United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices suggests that every adult over 60 years old who have had chicken pox get the herpes zoster vaccine.
Now the FDA has approved it for those 50 and up in case you thought you had a while to wait! It is said to be 70% effective in this age group. Of the 30% who still get it they suffer much less and shorter times so it sounds like a win/win to me and I voted for that for myself. Also since the likelihood of shingles increases with age it is much better to get it as soon as you can!
Outbreaks of shingles occur in two phases: the prodromal and the eruptive. Symptoms differ; depending on the phase. Prodromal symptoms happen 2 to 7 days before rash or blisters appear which include numbness, tingling, burning, itching, possibly shooting pain of one side of the face or body at the site where the outbreak is about to occur.
Some have other general complaints before the outbreak that may include:
- general flu like symptoms
- After the pain starts, blisters filled with fluid that will flare up in clusters or in lined patterns.
- Pain and itching related with the blisters are from very mild to severe.
- In around 2 weeks, the blisters become fluid filled and will crust over.
- From beginning to end, the shingles rash will last from 3 to 5 weeks.
- Pain from this (pain after the rash clears) can last anywhere from weeks to years after and outbreak and known as post-herpetic pain.
Where Do Shingles Erupt?
Shingles blisters can erupt anywhere you find nerves; although there are places on the body where shingles eruptions are most likely to break out and those areas are:
- one side of the buttocks;
- the arms, legs, or near the armpit
- one side of the face
- on sides of your torso, even spreading around to the back
- the waistline but never crossing the midline (shingles only occur on one side of the body, never both)
Don't freak out but take it seriously
As uncomfortable and painful as shingles are; they are seldom life-threatening. You should seek medical treatment as soon as you suspect you may be having a shingles outbreak, though and oral antiviral medications are basically the treatment of choice. Hospitalization may be required for outbreaks on the face or near the eyes or ears where more damage can be done. Seek help immediately! Shingles may have long lasting pain and other complications if not treated in time.
Safety Information About Zostavax
Shingles brought on by stress?
Now we are finding out that stress can bring on shingles as well. The way I understand it in the studies I tried to gather are that emotional stress makes a person more apt to developing shingles because stress lowers immunity. Our body cannot fight off the virus effectively when we are weakened by depressions and anxieties in our lives and a number of illnesses can evade our bodies; shingles just being another we are at risk to get.
More complications of shingles
- Vision loss
- Brain inflammation
- Hearing problems
- Skin infections
- Neurologic problems
Zostavax is a vaccine used to prevent shingles (also known as zoster).
- Zostavax is not 100%, which means some people who get the vaccine may still get shingles (read above about that).
- You will be warned to not get Zostavax if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, such as gelatin or neomycin, if you have a weakened immune system, or take high doses of steroids, are pregnant or plan to be. You should not take this to prevent chickenpox.
- Talk to your doctor if you plan to get Zostavax at the same time as Pneumovax®23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) it is recommended to get these vaccines at least 4 weeks apart.
- Possible side effects include redness, pain, itching, swelling, lump, heat, or even bruising at the injection site, possible headache.
- Zostavax being a vaccine contains a weakened chickenpox virus so therefore tell your doctor if you will be in close contact with newborn infants, someone pregnant who has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or anyone with problems with their immune system. Your doctor can give you any added information you need on this.
Help for shingles
Prescribed to speed healing
Over counter pain meds
Reduce severity of rash
Severe Neurological problems
Personal Experience With Vaccine
Ice pack and cover works great
What my problem was I may never know. Maybe a blessing in disguise? My rash never showed up and I was feeling better the very next day, so I did not have shingles. However, I had the scare that would make me get the vaccination!
I received my vaccination at Walmart pharmacy and the injection was given in the pinched flesh and fat behind and up from the elbow. It was only a slight prick, not even a pinch really and over in a minute and did not leave even a drop of blood.
They do not want you having this too close to the pneumonia vaccine and I had that in May so I was fine there. I am one of those people that shies away from vaccines for flu, etc. but the older I get the better I think my chances are with some things especially that can cause such misery and pain such as pneumonia that cause millions of infections and deaths worldwide each year and shingles that is so ugly and painful!
I thank my parents for vaccinations that kept me alive healthy as a child and now it is my responsibility as an adult to take care of myself. Not only for my sake but for the loved ones that would probably have to be responsible for my care if I did not.
I didn't get by scot-free for as with any immunization there can be some side effects and the next day the site was swollen slightly, red and itchy. I called and found out that with only these symptoms an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time and Tylenol would ease the pain; and it has! This will go away in about two to three days. Small price to pay!
Please get vaccinated! You have nothing to lose and much to avoid!
A Very Simple Explanation of Shingles
- Gottesman, D.; "Could it Be Shingles?" Health Monitor Network; September 2009.
- Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp.; "The Facts about Shingles"; 2009.