You may remember having shingles as a child. Your parents probably called them ‘growing pains,’ and indeed they can be rather unpleasant. Shingles essentially happen when the herpesvirus, which causes chickenpox, is reactivated in your body. The result? Extremely annoying nerve pain that can be downright debilitating. While it’s associated with childhood, shingles are actually a condition that most commonly plagues seniors.
So what can be done to help seniors 60 and over prevent this troublesome condition? Well, according to an advisory committee on immunization that is based out of the Centers for Disease Control, everybody over the age of 60 should be vaccinated with the newly FDA-approved drug “Zostavax.”
While you may not think that a vaccination is necessary, when you experience the pain that is brought on by shingles, you’ll know why it is worthwhile to get the shot. Newly approved in May of this year, Zostavax can help decrease the incidence of shingles by 50%. Plus, it can help reduce the pain associated with shingles if you do experience the condition. According to the Centers for Disease control, even if you’ve experienced shingles in the past, vaccination is still a good idea, as it can reoccur at any given time in your life.
Basically, shingles occur after the herpesvirus reactivates in your body (it isn’t exactly known just why this happens or what triggers it) causing a certain nerve to rise to the surface of your skin. This results in a rash and inevitably pain on either one side of your body or in one part of it. The lesions that this condition causes can be extremely painful and they can even blister, occur on the face, and even move into the eyes, threatening a sufferer with potential blindness.
The drug currently runs at about $150. Its producer, pharma giant Merck, stated that it plans to encourage doctors to recommend the shot to their patients who are 60 and up, and that heath insurance providers such as Medicaid and Medicare provide coverage for it.
The reason that Zostavax is making news is that shingles is actually a rather common condition among seniors. This is because individuals in this age bracket tend to have weaker immune systems, which can result in the reactivation of the herpesvirus. In fact, according to Mark Feinburg, a senior executive with Merck, “There are over a million shingles cases every year in the United States, with the average person having a 30 percent chance of developing the condition in their lifetime.”
Those are some serious numbers to consider. Plus, you should also know that shingles don’t pose a quick-fix scenario for many individuals. The condition can stick around for months and even years, causing you a lot of severe pain. It can even leave you housebound and unable to enjoy life.
If you are over 60 and have had the chicken pox before, you may want to discuss this vaccination option with your doctor or health care provider — it could save you a lot of undue pain.