Shingles is a skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox — and it can be just as painful and uncomfortable. Even worse, shingles often recurs. But you can be vaccinated to decrease your risk.
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Who is most at risk?
Advanced age or a weakened immune system can make people more vulnerable to contracting shingles.
People most at risk for shingles are:
- 60 years old or older.
- Have medical conditions that affect their immune system.
- Using immunosuppressive drugs.
The advisory committee on immunization practices recommends anyone over age 60 get vaccinated to reduce their risk. If you’re over 60 and have already had shingles, the vaccine may help prevent a recurrence.
What does the vaccine do?
Ronan Factora, MD, a doctor in the Center for Geriatric Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, says the vaccine reduces the risk of first-onset shingles by about 50 percent.
He adds that it reduces by two-thirds the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia — that’s pain in the nerves from the shingles coming out.
Dr. Factora says getting vaccinated makes sense.
“The biggest problem with shingles is the pain that is associated with it,” says Dr. Factora. “It can be very debilitating. You have to take a lot of medications. Sometimes the medications have a lot of side effects; sometimes they may not work very well and the pain can last for quite a long time.”
Dr. Factora says your primary care physician can help you check on the availability of the shingles vaccine.