eople cringe just hearing the word
“shingles.” It’s a painful skin and
nerve condition that can last for
weeks or longer. While it’s often
associated with the elderly, the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells
us shingles is increasing among adults, with
about ; million cases reported annually.
Here are some useful facts about shingles
and what you can do.
A stealth virus reawakens
After a case of chickenpox, the virus,
Varicella zoster, hides in nerves and can reappear decades later to cause shingles. Shingles
can strike at any age, but people over age ;;
are at greater risk. Patients with weakened
immunity due to cancer, infections or medicines are at greatest risk.
The first symptoms of shingles may be
burning, itching, tingling, mild to severe pain,
sensitive skin, or numbness on one side of the
body or face. Next, a rash with blisters in a
Shingrix is a vaccine that was
recently approved to prevent
Shingrix is given as a series
of two shots administered two
to six months apart, and is
more than 90 percent e;ective
in preventing shingles and
associated long-term nerve
pain. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention’s
advisory committee recom-
mends Shingrix for all adults
50 and older, even if they
have previously been
vaccinated for shingles.
The vaccine can cause some
pain, redness or swelling at the
injection site, as well as fatigue,
muscle pain or fever, which can
last two to three days.
Shingrix is available at
Costco pharmacies. No
appointment is needed.
The pain of
Treatment options for this
by LINDA R. BERNSTEIN
patch or band appears in one to five days.
Scabs form in a week to ;; days and usually
heal in two to four weeks. Other symptoms
may include fever, headache, chills, light
sensitivity, fatigue and upset stomach.
After the rash
The most common complication is
severe nerve pain, called postherpetic
neuralgia (PHN), that can last for months
or years after the rash disappears. Nerve
damage, vision and hearing problems, pneumonia, brain inflammation or death are
reported rarely. Shingles usually occurs only
once, but it can recur two or three times.
Prompt use of antivirals
If you suspect you have shingles, get
prompt treatment with antiviral medicines to
decrease the severity and length of the attack.
Those with PHN may need medicines to
reduce pain and inflammation.
Cool, wet compresses, calamine lotion
and colloidal oatmeal baths may help reduce
itching. Wear loose cotton clothing. Take
good care of yourself with plenty of rest and a
Linda R. Bernstein,
Pharm.D., is president
and CEO of Vita
a medical communications company.