Herpes Zoster

Herpes Zoster (Shingles) is the adult reoccurrence of the chicken pox virus caused by reactivation of the Varicella-Zoster virus (VZV).  The virus affects one or more nerve roots, sometimes involving the eye on one side.  It is common and has serious consequences, notably post-herpetic neuralgia or pain.

The reason the virus suddenly becomes active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs. Shingles may develop in any age group, but you are more likely to develop the condition if:

  • You are older than 60

  • You had chickenpox before age 1

  • Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease

Langan et al recently reviewed a group of 766,330 eligible Medicare individuals aged 65 years and older.  About 13,000 participants developed shingles.  The vaccine reduced the incidence of shingles by 48% and the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia by 59%.

In conclusion, most healthy older adults show the Zoster vaccination dramatically reduces the incidence and severity of this common and often devastating illness.

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