What is Shingles?
Shingles is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus responsible for chickenpox. After causing an initial chickenpox infection, the virus lies dormant in the nervous system and later travels down nerve fibers to spark a new infection known as shingles. Shingles can appear in people of any age who have previously been exposed to chickenpox, however, about half of all cases occur in men and women age 60 years and older. The risk for developing shingles increases as a person ages. The reason the virus reactivates is unclear, but because shingles is more common in older adults and in people with weakened immune systems, scientists believe it may be linked to lowered immunity.
The Three Stages of Shingles
Shingles generally develops in three stages: the first stage causes itching, tingling or pain on one side of the body in the area around the affected nerves, usually on the torso, face or neck. During the active stage, a rash appears and fluid-filled blisters form in the same area. The rash and blisters will heal in two to four weeks, though there may be scarring. The third stage results in aching, burning or stabbing pain felt in the same area that continues for weeks and may even linger for years. The pain from shingles ranges from mild to debilitating. Generally a shingles outbreak occurs only once, but in rare instances an individual will experience a second or third case.
The Shingles Vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a live-virus vaccine for shingles (Zostavax®) for adults age 50 and older. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not yet added the shingles vaccine to its list of recommended vaccines for adults ages 50-59, and most insurance companies will not cover the shot for those younger than age 60. While shingles vaccination does not guarantee you will not develop shingles, it can reduce the severity of the disease and the risk of severe nerve pain. Learn more about shingles vaccination.
Get the shingles vaccine at any RediClinic location inside Rite Aid pharmacies in Philadelphia, Baltimore/Washington D.C., and H-E-B grocery stores in Houston, San Antonio and Austin. Find a RediClinic at these locations.