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Why it is imperative to get the Shingles Vaccine at age 50?

This post aims to convey essential information about Shingles in a straightforward manner by drawing on a patient's firsthand experience. It does not substitute for professional medical advice for your particular case.

Shingles, caused by the Varicella virus (the same virus that causes Chickenpox), can unexpectedly resurface, even if you've conquered Chickenpox as a child. While most believe Chickenpox is a one-time battle; according to CDC, 1 out of 3 people will experience Shingles later in life due to Varicella reactivation. The most common causes of reactivation of the virus are stress and coming in skin-to-skin contact with someone with Shingles. Varicella is a sneaky virus that enters your body when you get Chickenpox and continues to live in your nervous system in a dormant state for the rest of your life. The subsequent outbreak(s) of the virus do not cause Chickenpox but instead cause Shingles. The Chickenpox outbreak is typically all over the body while Shingles is on a patch of the nervous system.

Once diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe a medication course to reduce the severity. Early treatment is crucial to minimizing the discomfort. The challenge however is, initial symptoms may mimic muscle ache, then evolving into skin redness often mistaken for a common rash. Over the next few days, the skin redness manifests into a rash that looks like a part of the nervous system has been drawn on the skin (see image for reference). Shingles progresses from red patches to fluid-filled blisters, eventually scabbing and shedding over 2-6 weeks. The rash can have itchy, burning and uncomfortable feeling with deep nerve pain that is accompanied. So, you will need pain medicine as well.

Our nervous system is divided into right and left, so Shingles only appears on the right or the left side of the body. Although, you can experience pain anywhere from head to toe on the affected side. In the case of our patient since their right side was affected, the patient experienced shooting pain in the right hand and in the right part of the skull although their rash was on the chest wrapping up to the back. Apart from the rash, long-term side effects of Shingle may include muscle and/or nerve pain which can last for months after the rash has cleared up.

The Chickenpox immunization became available for children in the US in 1995. Prior to this, Chickenpox was a prevalent childhood disease which affected almost all children. Anyone who has had Chickenpox is at an elevated risk of developing Shingles.

One way to prevent Shingles is to get the Shingles vaccine for adults which is highly effective, and it is FDA approved for those 50+. Beyond individual protection, vaccination also safeguards others, especially those with weakened immune systems. Anyone that catches the virus can develop Shingles or even worse if it is their first exposure to the virus, they can develop Chickenpox.


The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal, insurance, financial or any other professional advice.

Schematic of the nervous system



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