Almost all adults have had chickenpox (Varicella Zoster Virus) when they were young. We never get rid of this virus; it lies dormant inside our bodies and it can reactivate when we’re older and when our immune system is weaker. About 1 in 3 people will get Shingles.
This reactivation is called Shingles and the virus usually reactivates along a nerve producing a blistery itchy/burning rash. As it comes out via a nerve, it is always on one side of the body forming a band-like pattern.
Shingles is self-limiting and the rash usually disappears in 2-3 weeks.
A condition called “post herpetic neuralgia” can occur in about a third of shingle cases in patients over 40 and this is a continuous burning/tingling pain even after the rash is gone. It can be difficult to manage and for some patients, this may last many years.
Shingles can be managed by antiviral tablets if started within 3 days of the onset of the rash. The antiviral medication can reduce the duration and severity of Shingles.
There is a Shingles vaccination for patients over 50. The vaccination is called Zostavax and it retrains the immune system to recognize the virus hence preventing reactivation.
The vaccination reduces the rate of shingles by approximately 50% and also reduces the severity should a person get Shingles.
This vaccination is not subsidized and a cost of $250.00, including injection charge, will be incurred for the Zostavax vaccination.
We encourage patients to have their Shingles vaccine at the same time as their Influenza vaccination. Please speak to your doctor if you are interested in having the Shingles vaccination.