Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body. The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in seven to 10 days and clear up fully within two to four weeks.
Shingles may lead to serious complications involving your eyes, including blindness, as well as long-term nerve pain (postherpetic neuralgia or PHN). About one in 10 people who get shingles develop nerve pain that can last for months or years after the rash is gone.
Who is at risk?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Even though you may recover from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles. But your risk of getting it—as well as the risk of complications—increases as you get older.
How can I keep from getting shingles?
More than 99 percent of Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember it. A shingles vaccination is the only way to protect against shingles and PHN. Shingrix is preferred by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) over Zostavax, a previous shingles vaccine. But Zostavax may still be used to prevent shingles in healthy adults age 60 and older.
Who should get a shingles vaccine?
Healthy adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by two to six months. You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Had shingles
- Received Zostavax
- Are not sure if you had chickenpox
If you had Zostavax in the recent past, you should wait at least eight weeks before getting Shingrix. Talk to your doctor to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
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