Shingles. If you’ve had it, or know someone who has, the mere mention of the word can bring you to your knees.
The painful condition afflicts one million people each year in America alone. While people over 50 years of age are most susceptible to it, young people and those with weakened immune systems can also get shingles.
If you’ve had chickenpox, you are susceptible to getting shingles, as the virus can remain dormant in your body for many years. Only rarely can you contract shingles if you’ve had the chickenpox vaccine.
What is shingles?
The condition includes a painful rash that often involves blisters. It can last up to four weeks, with severe pain. One in five people with shingles will experience severe pain for longer than four weeks, and long after the rash goes away.
You may also experience a headache, fever, upset stomach and chills. In some cases, it can lead to hearing problems, pneumonia, brain inflammation, blindness or death.
The vaccine can reduce your risk of shingles by 50 percent. In addition, if you get the vaccine and still contract shingles, it can help reduce the pain of the condition significantly.
Medical experts recommend the vaccine for people 50 years and older. Only people who meet these conditions should NOT get the vaccine:
- You have a weakened immune system from AIDS, high-dose steroid use, cancer treatment or cancers.
- You’re pregnant.
- You’re allergic to a component in the vaccine, like gelatin.
It’s possible that the vaccine can cause problems; however, studies have not revealed any connection between serious problems and people who get the vaccine.
Some of the problems associated with getting the vaccine include:
- Allergic reactions
When you get the vaccine, be aware of more serious reactions, including high fever, changes in behavior, hives, swelling in the throat or face, problems breathing, an elevated heartbeat, weakness or dizziness.
If you experience these symptoms, contact 911 or call your doctor right away.
Why you should vaccinate
It’s important to learn about the pros and cons of the shingles vaccine and the disease itself. Even if you’ve already had shingles, you can prevent a second attack by getting the vaccine.
As you get older, your immune system weakens, so your chances of contracting shingles are high. It is estimated that half of Americans who reach age 85 will have experienced shingles at some point.
In addition, if you get shingles after age 80, the pain can last three months or more – much longer than the two to four weeks estimated for people past age 60.
If you get shingles and have to deal with the pain and blistering rash, you may have to contend with repercussions like the inability to work or requiring in-home care around the clock.
Talk to your doctor about the benefits of the vaccine and whether you’re a prime candidate.
UROne Benefits™ can help you obtain the right health care coverage for your age. Contact us here or at 1-800-722-7331.
This post was originally published in January 2017; updated January 2024.