According to the Centers for Disease Control at least 1 million people a year in the United States are diagnosed with shingles. Shingles are characterized by a painful skin rash, often with blisters that last from two to four weeks. About one in five experience severe pain. Neurological pain can continue even after the rash clears up. Although shingles is not a life-threaten condition, it is very painful. The virus is most common in people over 55 years of age with immune suppressed systems.
Shingles is caused by varicella zoster virus which is the same virus that causes chicken pox. According to the CDC, after you’ve had chicken pox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivivate as shingles. It is unknown exactly what triggers an outbreak.
The shingles vaccine has been out since 2006, and has been beneficial to seniors. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the vaccine is recommended for people age 60 and older. Many seniors are not aware that the vaccine is available or that it’s covered by the Medicare Part D drug plan and many private insurances as well. If not covered by insurance the cost is approximately $200.00. In order to assure coverage we recommend calling your health insurance company. Studies on the vaccine show it reduces the risk of getting shingles by 50% and reduces the risk of getting a more serious case by two-thirds.
The signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of the body. Those signs and symptoms may include; pain, burning, numbness or tingling, a red rash that begins a few days after the pain, fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over, and itching. Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. For some it can be intense.