Shingles affects about 1 million people each year in the U.S. Everything about this virus is sneaky: who will get it, when they will get it, how long it will affect them and side effects are all unique to the person.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, even children. It is often thought of as an adult virus because half of those diagnosed with shingles are age 60 and older. The older you are when you get shingles also increases the severity and chances that pain will linger for months or even years after the rash disappears. The reason why some people get shingles and not others is still unknown, but is linked to a reactivation of the dormant chickenpox virus within your nervous system and usually linked to a weakened immune system.
The chickenpox vaccine has become a routine vaccine in childhood immunizations since about 1995 in the U.S. Getting vaccinated for chickenpox does not guarantee that you won’t get chickenpox or shingles later on, but it does reduce your chances and the severity of the disease. Vaccine strains are, as far as we know, less likely to reactivate and cause shingles. Since these younger generations never have had the initial infection with the varicella zoster virus (the virus that causes chickenpox), it is expected that the incidence rate of shingles will decrease over the next 50 to 60 years.
Usually, shingles will affect one side of your body: one side of your torso, face, or one arm are common. The rash often presents in a band-like fashion, concentrated to one area and not all over. If you notice a rash or start to feel tingling or soreness on one side, see a doctor. There are antiviral medication that can lessen the duration and severity of shingles if taken early. Getting the shingles vaccine (varicella-zoster) can reduce your chances of getting shingles and reduce the chances of having long-term pain. The CDC recommends the one-time vaccine for anyone aged 60 or older.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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