It’s a good time to protect yourself against shingles!

Hello all!

It’s fall and a time when we feel the change of the seasons the most, as the warmness of summer gives way to colder climes. Fall brings with it its own appeal but also the awareness in the medical world that the flu season is upon us, which is why I not only encourage all my patients to get their flu shots but I also suggest that those who are over the age of 65 years consider the option of the pneumonia shot and those over 50, the shingles shot.

In this newsletter I would like to focus on the shingles shot. 

The efficacy and side effects of shots have significantly improved in the last few years. Shingrix is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and a painful complication called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in all age groups. Zostavax, which was the previous standard, only lowered the odds of getting shingles by 51%.

Shingrix is an option for patients 50 and older, including patients who have had a previous case of shingles. Patients need two doses, given 2 to 6 months apart. The second dose is essential to ensure long-term protection.

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If you have any questions about whether or not you are a good candidate for Shingrix, call our office or contact us through our website:

Here are some of the top FAQs about shingles:

What is shingles?

Shingles is a disease that affects your nerves. It can cause burning, shooting pain, tingling, and/or itching, as well as a rash and blisters.

You may recall having chickenpox as a child. Shingles is caused by the same virus, the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). After you recover from chickenpox, the virus continues to live in some of your nerve cells. It is usually inactive, so you don’t even know it’s there.

In fact, most adults live with VZV in their bodies and never get shingles. But, for about one in three adults, the virus will become active again. Instead of causing another case of chickenpox, it produces shingles. We do not fully understand what makes the virus go from inactive to active.

Having shingles doesn’t mean you have any other underlying disease.

How do you get shingles?

Everyone who has had chickenpox has VZV in their body and is at risk for getting shingles. Right now, there is no way of knowing who will get the disease. But, some things make it more likely:

Advanced age. The risk of getting shingles increases as you age. People may have a harder time fighting off infections as they get older. About half of all shingles cases are in adults age 60 or older. The chance of getting shingles becomes much higher by age 70.
Trouble fighting infections. Your immune system is the part of your body that responds to infections. Age can affect your immune system. So can an HIV infection, cancer, cancer treatments, too much sun, or organ transplant drugs. Even stress or a cold can weaken your immune system for a short time. These all can put you at risk for shingles.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Usually, shingles develops only on one side of the body or face and in a small area rather than all over. The most common nerve distribution area for shingles is a band that goes around one side of the waistline.

Most people have some of the following shingles symptoms:

  • Burning, tingling, or numbness of the skin
  • Feeling sick—chills, fever, upset stomach, or headache
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Skin that is sensitive to touch
  • Mild itching to severe pain

Depending on where shingles develops, it could also cause symptoms like hiccups or even loss of vision.

For some people, the symptoms of shingles are mild. They might just have some itching. For others, shingles can cause intense pain that can be triggered by the gentlest touch or breeze or even without any stimulation. 

How long does shingles last?

Most cases of shingles last 3 to 5 weeks. Shingles follows a pattern:

  • The first sign is often burning or tingling pain; sometimes, it includes numbness or itching on one side of the body.
  • Somewhere between 1 and 5 days after the tingling or burning feeling on the skin, a red rash will appear.
  •  A few days later, the rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters.
  • About a week to 10 days after that, the blisters dry up and crust over.
  • A couple of weeks later, the scabs clear up.

Most people get shingles only one time. But it is possible to have it more than once.

Have a rash? Come in and see me right away

If you think you might have shingles, talk to me as soon as possible. It’s important to see me no later than three days after the rash starts. I can then confirm whether or not you have shingles, and we will develop a treatment plan. Although there is no cure for shingles, early treatment with drugs that fight the virus can help the blisters dry up faster and limit severe pain. Shingles can often be treated at home. People with shingles rarely need to stay in a hospital.

What can you do about shingles?

If you or someone you know has shingles, here are some tips that might help you feel better:

  • Get plenty of rest and eat well-balanced meals.
  • Try simple exercises like stretching or walking.
  • Apply a cool washcloth to your blisters to ease the pain and help dry the blisters.
  • Do things that take your mind off your pain. For example, watch TV, read, talk with friends, listen to relaxing music, or work on a hobby you like.
  • Avoid stress. It can make the pain worse.
  • Wear loose-fitting, natural-fiber clothing.
  • Take an oatmeal bath or use calamine lotion to see if it soothes your skin.
  • Share your feelings about your pain with family and friends. Ask for their understanding.

You can take some important steps to limit the spread of the virus:

  • Keeping the rash covered
  • Refrain from touching or scratching the rash
  • Wash your hands often

Your next step is to call to schedule

I look forward to seeing you for a physical exam. Call the office at 952-999-4049 and Allison would be happy to schedule an appointment. Or I welcome you to send me a message or ask me a question at any time using the form on this page: