Dr. Reed Q & A – Shingles Vaccines

Dr. Reed Q & A – Shingles Vaccines

Reed V. Tuckson, MD, is Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group. A Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Dr. Reed is a nationally recognized speaker on preventive health and clinical medicine.

Q:   Dear Dr. Reed:

I’m 67 years old and in good health. I was on the internet and noticed some information about a shingles vaccine. I’m worried about getting this disease; can you tell me more about shingles and whether or not I should get the vaccine?

A:   Glad you asked about this fairly common disease that affects one-third of Americans in their lifetime.

Shingles (which is also called Herpes zoster) is a painful rash resulting from the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an episode of chickenpox, the virus continues to live quietly in cells of the nervous system. Conditions that compromise the body’s immune system result in the virus becoming alive years later to cause symptoms that include severe pain on one side of the body, lower back, chest or stomach followed by a blister type rash.

This pain (sometimes called post-herpetic neuralgia) can last from months to years and can become so severe that it can cause sleeplessness, depression, weight loss, and general debilitation.

Treatment usually includes antiviral and pain-relieving medications. The antiviral medications speed healing and reduce the severity and duration of pain.  The treatment is most effective if started within 72 hours of the beginning of symptoms.

The only way to prevent singles is to get vaccinated. Although the vaccine is not 100% effective, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that people over 60 be vaccinated unless they have HIV/AIDS, cancer radiation/chemotherapy or other diseases that compromise the immune system.

You can visit:  http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Shingles/ for more information on shingles and remember to always talk to your doctor.

Do you have questions about your health? There is so much information out there that it can be hard to make sense of it all and, more importantly, apply it in our own lives. Dr. Reed Tuckson, Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs at UnitedHealth Group, hears this all the time as he travels the country speaking about preventive healthcare and clinical medicine and talking to readers of the “Ask Dr. Reed Q&A” column or his book, The Doctor in the Mirror. Dr. Reed cannot provide individual responses but he may address your idea in a future column, which you can read right here on Facebook. If you are seeking personal advice, please consult your doctor, specialist, or nurse.