If you remember scratching at blisters on your body when you were a kid and missing a week of school because you had the chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles.
Shingles is a form of the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox, called herpes zoster. After having chickenpox, the virus remains in the body and can reemerge later as shingles. The disease is characterized by a painful rash, typically on one side of the face or torso which usually clears in two to four weeks. The most common complication is post-herpetic neuralgia, which can cause debilitating pain for weeks, months or even years after the rash heals.
“Some older adults who had chickenpox in their childhood think they don’t need a vaccination for shingles,” said Kevin Russell, a pharmacist and operations manager of Samaritan’s Outpatient Pharmacies. “But shingles is very common — about one-third of older adults will get it — and the possible complications are serious.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that every year 1 million adults suffer from shingles, and most are over the age of 60. For that reason, the CDC recommends adults 60 and older be vaccinated for shingles.
“The onset of shingles is linked to a natural lowering of the immune system as people age, but it can also occur with other immunity-lowering factors — cancer, HIV or certain infections,” said Russell.
Russell reports that the vaccine lowers the risk of getting shingles by about half and the risk of prolonged nerve pain by about two-thirds.
"The shingles vaccine is safe and can help older adults continue to live an active, pain-free life,” he said.
Samaritan Pharmacies offer walk-in vaccinations, including shingles. Visit samhealth.org/Pharmacy to find a location near you.
Learn more about shingles, their symptoms and treatment.