Kim Sherman, R.Ph. - Green Location

Q: What are shingles?

A: Shingles (zoster) is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, the virus stays in your body and can resurface as Shingles. Shingles appears as a very red rash with blisters that often appears on the trunk of the body and is contained to only one side. The Shingles rash usually lasts up to 30 days, and for most the pain lessens as the rash heals. But some people, particularly the elderly, can experience long-term nerve pain. This pain can last for months after the rash has healed and can be very severe-this is called post herpetic neuralgia or PHN.

Q: Who is at risk of having shingles?

A: Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles. Most adults in the United States had chickenpox when they were children. Shingles is most common in people over the age of 50. The risk increases with age. Some experts estimate that half the people who live to the age of 85 will experience shingles at some point in their lives. People with weakened immune systems are also at higher risk for developing shingles. A weakened immune system can be caused by HIV/AIDS, cancer or cancer treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, prolonged use of steroids, such as prednisone, or certain medications.

Q: What can you do to prevent shingles?

A: Try to stay healthy by eating well, exercising, and taking a multi-vitamin. This will keep your immune system strong. Try not to become overly stressed. Stress and anxiety can weaken an otherwise strong immune system, and weakened immune systems are triggers for shingles outbreaks. Also, now a vaccine is available to prevent shingles. The vaccine, called Zostavax, is recommended for those age 60 and older who have had chickenpox. It is a single dose vaccine and is recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Q: How do I get a vaccine?

A: Vaccines are available from your physician or at your local health department. Also, now many pharmacies offer vaccinations. A pharmacy is a great place to get your shingle vaccine since Medicare Part D (the prescription drug plan) will often cover some of the cost of the vaccine. Your Ritzman pharmacist is immunization certified. Ask your doctor if the Zostavax vaccine is right for you and bring your prescription to Ritzman Pharmacy to help protect you from a shingles outbreak.