Take Your Shingles Shot!

If you are in your 50s, it’s time to talk with your physician about the shingles vaccine.

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella zoster virus—the same virus responsible for chicken pox. If you’ve had chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in your body long after the tell-tale spots are gone, and you can develop shingles at any point during your lifetime.

Like chicken pox, shingles causes a rash. This rash usually consists of red bumps that morph into painful, fluid-filled blisters, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. In addition to the rash, you may have a fever and localized itching, pain or tingling sensations that may develop even before the rash.

Shingles usually causes no long-term complications, but there are exceptions. Some people develop a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia, which can cause persistent pain. The older you are when shingles develops, the greater your risk of post-herpetic neuralgia.

A Layer of Protection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the one-dose shingles vaccine can reduce your likelihood of developing the disease by 51 percent and, if you do develop shingles, reduces your chances of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67 percent. For this reason, experts recommend all adults age 60 and older get vaccinated.

The side effects of the shingles vaccine are rare and typically mild. Still, vaccination isn’t right for everyone, especially those who have diseases or take medications that affect the immune system. Before you get vaccinated, weigh the risks and benefits of vaccination with your physician.

A Matter of the Heart?

Research published in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found a potential link between shingles and heart attack and stroke risk. To conduct the project, a team of South Korean investigators compared the medical records of more than 23,000 adults with shingles to medical records of those who’ve never had the disease. Adults with shingles were 59 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 35 percent more likely to have a stroke, according to the results. The risk of having a cardiac event appeared to be highest within 12 months of the shingles diagnosis.

More research is needed before physicians can definitively say that shingles raises heart attack and stroke risk. Still, the study highlights another potential reason to protect yourself and your loved from the shingles virus through vaccination.


cdc.gov, acc.org, onlinejacc.org, cdc.gov, familydoctor.org, ninds.nih.gov, vaccines.gov, vaccines.gov

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