Shingles, also referred to as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that is relatively common. It is characterized by a painful skin rash that eventually leads to blisters. Shingles affects older people more often than younger people and it is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. After a person has chicken pox and recovers, the virus remains dormant in their nerve cells. In some cases, this virus will reactivate leading to shingles, which is a highly contagious disease. The shingles vaccine will protect approximately 50 percent of patients from getting shingles. However, patients should weigh the pros and cons of the shingles vaccine prior to getting it.
The shingles vaccine is given to prevent shingles and the spread of shingles. In 2006, the FDA approved Zostavax, the first shingles vaccine. The vaccine will help to protect and fight against shingles by stimulating the bodies immune system after a weakened version of the varicella-zoster virus is injected.
A major pro of the shingles vaccine is preventing shingles. When a patient has shingles they will experience increased sensitivity, severe pain, tingling sensations, numbness, itching, and burning. As the disease progresses, they will develop a painful rash which will eventually form blisters filled with fluid. The blisters will begin to pop after about five days and then the fluid that was in the blister will ooze out. After the fluid completely drains from the blister, they will crust over after they dry up. It will take approximately two to four weeks for the rash to completely heal. Patients may also experience other symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal pain, headache, and in some cases, pneumonia. The rash typically appears on the chest, face, back, legs, and arms. One out of every five patients will also experience pain associated with shingles that can last several years called postherpetic neuralgia.
A con of the shingles vaccine is that it has only been shown to protect approximately 50 percent of patients who get it. Also, it only protects approximately 67 percent of patients from experiencing postherpetic neuralgia if they end up developing shingles. Another con of the shingles vaccine is that it is pretty much only recommended for people 60 years of age and older making it difficult for younger people to get it.
Another con of the shingles vaccine is that there are risks involved. The risks are stated to be generally mild and rare, but they are there. The mild risks of the shingles vaccine include injection site swelling, headache, injection site itching, and injection site redness. The serious risks of the shingles vaccine include high fever, increased heart rate, allergic symptoms, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
Patients with certain medical conditions should not get the shingles vaccine. This is also a con because those with weak immune systems are more susceptible to shingles, yet they should not get the shingles vaccine. These medical conditions include HIV, lymphoma, leukemia, and diabetes. Those taking certain medications, such as steroids, immunosuppressive drugs, and chemotherapy, should not get the shingles vaccine.