What is Herpes Zoster or Shingles?
After a person has had chicken pox, the virus remains dormant inside the nerves in the body. When the virus awakens or reappears, it is called Herpes Zoster or shingles.
Description of the Herpes Zoster Rash
It erupts along a nerve distribution pattern. The rash is almost always on one side of the body only. The rash is characterized by blisters, pain, and fever. Many times the pain occurs before the eruption of the rash. The rash does occur on the face, especially on the forehead. It can also involve the eye causing lesions on the eye. It can cause inflammation inside the eye causing damage to the structures inside the eye. People can develop glaucoma, retinal damage, and damage to the optic nerve which can lead to loss of vision. Fortunately, this type of damage does not occur often. The pain from Herpes Zoster can be severe and can last for a long time after the rash has healed.
What Causes Herpes Zoster?
A change in a person’s immune system allows the virus to reappear. This could be due to an illness, stress, emotional changes, even holidays, vacations, or other things that change a person’s routine. In elderly people it can mean there is an underlying disease or cancer that may be present that has changed their immune system.
Vaccine for Herpes Zoster
The vaccine Zostavax was approved for use in people age 60 and older. Recently, the vaccine approval was lowered to people age 55 and older. The vaccine has been shown to decrease the number of out breaks of Herpes Zoster by approximately 70%. The vaccine typically costs over $200.00. The vaccine is not covered under Medicare part B but is covered under Medicare part D in most cases. If you are not on Medicare, you need to check with your insurance company to see if they cover the vaccine.
Who has the Vaccine?
You can go to the Zostavax website and they have a find a provider area on their website. You can ask your doctor if they have the vaccine. Some pharmacies may have the vaccine.
Most doctors are recommending the vaccine for their patients over age 60. It has not been completely determined whether people over age 50 and older should get the vaccine. You should check with your doctor about their recommendation.