Shingles is painful, energy-draining and can strike without warning if you’ve ever had the chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus (the virus that causes chicken pox) takes a little nap in the nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. If it “wakes up,” it reactivates as shingles, a painful rash with blisters. You may already know that the only way to prevent shingles is with the shingles vaccine. But did you know there’s a new vaccine on the market that, according to research, offers stronger, longer-lasting protection than the previous one?
If you’ve ever talked to anyone who had shingles, you’ve probably heard it’s not a pleasant disease. In fact, it can be downright miserable. While it’s not life-threatening, shingles can be painful and energy-draining. Worse yet, the condition typically comes on unexpectedly. Here’s what you need to know about shingles to help prepare for, or in some cases, prevent an outbreak.
Every year, the shingles virus affects an estimated 1 million people in the United States. It is a painful, unpleasant (though rarely fatal) illness which is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus you had as a child. As your immune system weakens with age, the virus reactivates from where it has been lying dormant in your spinal column. It causes blisters and pain along whole nerve segments in your body. The blisters may come and go after a couple weeks, but the pain can persist for months.
I work with senior patients every day. I’m often asked whether they should get vaccinated. The short answer: Yes! Older adults are particularly vulnerable, especially when it comes to some infectious diseases.