Chance of shingles reduced with shot
According to a May 16, 2008, Associated Press news report, a vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster) is now available. Vaccination is highly recommended for people who are 60 and older. It's even recommended for people who have had shingles already.
I'm fortunate that shingles broke out on my hand (rather than my face or elsewhere), and I hope that I'll never have them again if I take the shot.
My cousin Alta wrote the following about her experience with shingles:
Shingles, I know how they hurt. I had them 6 years ago on the left side of my face including my left eye, which they thought I would lose my eye sight but the shingle was behind the eye so that helped. I have lot of eye scares from the shingles so can't remove the cataract that is forming. Too dangerous but I can see out of it, but not as good as I would have.
Source: E-mail, 6-8-08
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites statistics for shingles and some common complications.
Approximately one in three persons will develop zoster during their lifetime, resulting in an estimated 1 million episodes in the United States annually.
A common complication of zoster is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a chronic, often debilitating pain condition that can last months or even years. The risk for PHN in patients with zoster is 10%--18%.
Another complication of zoster is eye involvement, which occurs in 10%--25% of zoster episodes and can result in prolonged or permanent pain, facial scarring, and loss of vision.
Approximately 3% of patients with zoster are hospitalized; many of these episodes involved persons with one or more immunocompromising conditions.
Deaths attributable to zoster are uncommon among persons who are not immunocompromised.
Source: CDC document, "Prevention of Herpes Zoster." This document also notes that 99.5% of U.S. citizens test positive for varicella (chicken pox), and about 50% of those who live to age 85 will contract zoster (shingles.)
Before my current outbreak of shingles, I wasn't aware of the high likelihood of getting the disease, the possible complications, or the vaccine that's now available. I'm better informed now. I intend to have the shingles shot as soon as possible.