That Nasty “S” Word: Shingles
By Stapley Pharmacy
Imagine your sides burning, itching, and tingling with piercing, radiating, non-stop pain!
This pain is often referred to as one of the worst pains in medicine, and it is only one of the symptoms of shingles. The outward symptom of shingles is a nasty rash that affects more than one million Americans each year. Current data projects that one in every three adults in America will experience shingles at some time during their lifetime.
Shingles is a rash caused by the herpes zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes the chickenpox. In order to get shingles, exposure to the zoster virus must have happened at some point in a person’s life. Having chicken pox as a child or receiving the varicella vaccine (common since the late 1990s) to prevent chickenpox are both ways of being exposed to the zoster virus.
After exposure, the virus lays dormant in a nerve that connects to the skin called a dermatome. When this virus becomes reactivated later in life, it travels up the nerve fiber to the skin, causing the rash. The virus can be reactivated due to any weakening of the body’s immune system and can be exacerbated by stress or illness.The most common symptom of shingles is a rash with small blisters that appears a few days after a burning or itching feeling occurs. The rash can last for up to 10 days but is usually resolved in 2–4 weeks. If the rash is extreme, long term nerve damage can occur.
The only prevention of shingles is vaccination. In 2017, a new inactive vaccine called SHINGRIX was released. Amazingly, it reduced the incidence of shingles by 90 percent! Anyone over fifty who has had any previous exposure to the zoster virus is encouraged to get their SHINGRIX vaccine. This also applies to those previously vaccinated for shingles. Shingles is a horribly painful condition that can have long term effects. Vaccination is the only prevention that can help avoid this burning, stinging rash. The SHINGRIX vaccine is available at your local pharmacy and the cost is often covered by insurance and Medicare. Don’t wait! There is no time like the present to get vaccinated.
Remember, your pharmacist is your most accessible medical professional. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Christopher Christensen, PharmD
Kelli Charlton, Director of Education
Chris has been in the pharmacy profession for 12 years. He is the managing pharmacist for the Stapley “Dino” location. He loves spending time with his family and giving vaccinations!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of Herpes Zoster: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 2008;57(05):1-30.
- Prescribing information for SHINGRIX. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for Use of Herpes Zoster Vaccines. MMWR. 2018;67(3):103-108