West Houston Dermatology

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What Patients Should Know About Shingles and Zostravax


Shingles Vaccine

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection in the roots of the nerves that manifests as a skin rash.  The virus causing shingles is Varicella zoster.  Patients who had chickenpox as a child have the DNA of the dormant virus in their bodies, but in some people the virus becomes active again in the form of shingles when the patient is under great stress, suffers a serious injury, is advancing in age, or when the immune system is suppressed.  Usually patients will develop a rash on one side of their body, which can be extremely painful.  People who develop shingles usually find that the condition is eventually alleviated and does not recur.  There is good news in terms of prevention of shingles because there is a vaccine Zostavax that was approved by the FDA in 2006 for patients age 60 and over.  However, in recent months the FDA expanded approval the singles vaccine for patients between ages 50-59.  It’s important to note that not everyone who had chickenpox will develop shingles.  Also, shingles is not contagious unless the person(s) exposed to the patient’s shingles rash never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, so cave givers should take precautions to avoid contagion.  Before deciding to get the shingles vaccine, one should speak to dermatologist because this vaccine is not appropriate for all patients.  For patients who have shingles or suspect they have shingles, please see your dermatologist for treatment as he/she can prescribe medications to help diminish the pain and other symptoms.