Shingles is caused by Herpes Zoster, a virus that also causes chickenpox. The virus lies dormant and flares up as our immune system weakens with age. The FDA recently approved a new shingles vaccine that is much more effective than its predecessor.
Signs and Symptoms: A painful blistering rash occurs anywhere on the body supplied by the affected nerve. It often strikes the mid-flank area, although it can appear anywhere on the body. Nerves involving the face and eye can lead to the most serious damage and pain. The damaged nerves sometimes cause pain for months or years after an infection, a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia.
What to do: Early treatment with antiviral medication and steroids can shorten the course and limit damage and future pain. Folks over sixty ought to get vaccinated, even if they had the older vaccine. There is more muscle soreness, and two doses are required, but the increased protection seems worth it.
Thought for the day: The new vaccine might cause a sore arm, but Shingles causes much greater pain and harm.
What’s Going Around is contributed by family practice doctor Kyle Scarborough, M.D. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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