Health Issues You May Not Know About: Shingles

Health Issues You May Not Know About:  Shingles

With much publicity being given to the aging “baby boomer population” (those born directly after World War II through 1960) one of the health care concerns has been the uptick in cases of Shingles.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this painful disease now affects an estimated one million Americans a year.  Yet, there is hope in the form of a vaccine.

What Causes Shingles?

When a child has a case of the Chickenpox, the virus (Varicella-Zoster) at the root of the illness stays dormant in the body.  For reasons not fully understood, as one ages the dormant virus reactivates resulting in an extremely painful rash known as Shingles.

What are the Symptoms?

Shingles is usually manifested by a painful rash that can lead to long-term nerve damage.  Along with the rash, symptoms may include fever, headaches, chills and an upset stomach.  Shingles cannot be transmitted through the air, but the virus can be caught through contact with fluids at the rash area.

The Vaccine

The Shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is recommended for people age 60 and over and helps protect against reactivation of Varicella-Zoster.  The vaccine is live which means a small amount of the virus is introduced to the body to help activate antibodies.  People who suffer from immune difficulties (HIV) or have received drugs that repress immunities (cancer drugs, steroids) should not get the vaccine.

Most people do not experience a reaction from receiving the Shingles vaccine.  At the most, the patient may experience swelling at the injection site, along with redness, itching or irritation.

Paying for the Vaccine

 The vaccine can be costly compared to other treatments such as a Flu shot.  The good news is all Medicare- Part D plans cover the vaccine.  Medicare-Part B does not cover the treatment but many private insurers cover for those 60 years and older.  Check with your insurance provider for co-pay and coverage information.

As with most diseases, prevention is the watch word.  Shingles can be a very difficult, very painful episode and as with any other medical concern, if you have questions about the vaccine, contact your doctor or health care provider.