Shingles, which is also known as Herpes Zoster, is defined as a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash which is accompanied by blisters. Shingles can affect any part of the body but it usually appears as a single stripe of rashes and blisters around one side of the torso. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus and is therefore also known as zoster. The varicella zoster virus also causes chickenpox and when a person is affected by chicken pox the virus does not fully clear but remains dormant in the body in the nerve tissues. When the immunity of the body weakens because of physical or emotional stress the virus, which was dormant, reactivates and spreads along the nerve fibers of the skin, leading to rashes and blisters, says Alexander Salerno MD.
Rashes and pain from shingles remain for 2 to 3 weeks during which the first symptoms observed are a tingling pain or burning sensation or even numbness or itch on a particular location on one side on the body followed by development of painful rashes a few days of the after the appearance of the first few symptoms. Sometimes the pain from shingles lingers on and goes on for months or even years. This is termed as postherpetic neuralgia or PHN where the pain is excruciating and severe and further leads to depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, loss of appetite and weight loss, and these can have a detrimental effect on daily routine such as bathing, eating, cooking, travelling etc.
To avoid these complications and symptoms associated with shingles the only form of treatment is immunization using the shingles vaccine or the herpes zoster vaccine as there is no medication to treat shingles, only the severity of the symptoms can be reduced with treatment. The shingles vaccine consists of attenuated varicella virus against which antibodies are produced in large numbers to fight the infection, explains Dr Alexander Salerno.
Vaccination for shingles is highly effective and the most full-proof way to fight shingles which is usually seen in those above 60 years for whom the pain can be severe to bear.
Effectiveness of Shingles Vaccine
Shingles vaccine is recommended for those above the age of 50 and has been found to reduce the risk of shingles by up to 70% for those who take the vaccine between the ages of 50 to 59. Those who take the vaccine at the age of 60 or above find the risk of shingles to be reduced by 51 to 55% via vaccination. The vaccine is most effective in those below 69 years but it has shown to be effective in the older generation too.
Also, effectiveness of the vaccine against post-herpetic neuralgia or PHN, a serious complication of shingles, was also found to be 59% in individuals, states Alexander Salerno MD.
Also, shingles vaccine provides a longer duration of protection and needs to be administered only once, subcutaneously, thus adding to its effectiveness.
The only drawback is that shingles vaccine is effective only when administered beforehand and not after being infected with shingles.
Since 2001, Dr. Alexander G. Salerno has led Salerno Medical Associates in East Orange, New Jersey. Dr. Alexander Salerno focuses largely on urban communities and on delivering patient education about both medical and behavioral health issues.