Don’t ask me how I know about this. It’s personal…
It is estimated that 25-30% of all adults will have had at least one bout of shingles by age 80. If you had chickenpox as a child (and certainly most individuals over 60 qualify) it is possible that the causative virus (varicella zoster) is lying dormant in a nerve just waiting to play havoc with your life. Although shingles can occur in any age, it is much more common in senior citizens most likely because the effectiveness of the immune system decreases with age. Recent data also suggests that adults with asthma are much more likely to get shingles compared to those without asthma. In addition, the uptick in shingles incidence over the last decade or so is thought to be primarily due to the increase in immunization of children to chickenpox (which is caused by the same virus that causes shingles in older adults). Increased immunization means fewer cases of active chickenpox which in turn means adults have less chance of maintaining immunity to varicella. The result is an increasing incidence of the dormant varicella in the nerve reactivating into a full-blown shingles attack as it is no longer suppressed.
Some unfortunate adults suffer through multiple painful bouts of shingles. Additionally, shingles can result in continuing nerve pain after the acute bout has dissipated in 15-20% of cases. This is called post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) and can last from a few weeks to years (my PHN has decreased with time but it has now lasted 2 1/2 years).
Approved in 2006 for patients 60 and older, varicella zoster vaccine (Zostavax) decreases the risk of shingles by at least 50% in addition to decreasing the severity of a bout of shingles and decreasing PHN. The duration of the protective effect lasts at least 7 years and it is one of the safest vaccines (very few adverse reactions). The vaccine costs are covered by many insurances and it is available at many pharmacies following a brief screening questionnaire. With the exception of a significantly decreased immune system most people over 59 likely qualify for the vaccine.
So how do I know about this? I was working fulltime and healthy when shingles caught up with me and it was a painful lesson. House Spouse Healthcare Tip: Receiving a Zostavax shot is one of the most cost-effective and grief-avoiding things you can do for your health. Consult your doctor or pharmacist today.
Additional Information http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(15)01641-3/abstract
Here is a 4 minute video from National Institute for Health about Shingles
House Spouse Jerry