Doctors urge those over 60 to get vaccinated against shingles

Painful disease becomes more common with age

WESTON, Fla. - Anyone exposed to chicken pox in childhood is at risk for being affected by shingles in adulthood.

"This is a painful rash that can appear just about anywhere on the body and it's actually a re-activation of the chicken pox virus," said Dr. Giogio Tarchini with the Cleveland Clinic Florida's department of immunology.

Tarchini said only 20 percent of those exposed to chicken pox in childhood will develop shingles in adulthood, but no one knows whether they will be part of that 20 percent.

"This is not something to take lightly," said Tarchini.

The blistering rash from shingles is painful and can be difficult to control. 

Some people suffer nerve pain long after the rash has disappeared.

"This can last for several months to years after the shingles episode," said Tarchini.

For that reason, doctors are encouraging people over the age of 60 to get vaccinated against shingles.

"The vaccine reduces the risk of getting shingles by 50 percent," said Tarchini. "It also reduces to the post-viral nerve pain for about a third of people."

Those at highest risk for contracting shingles include the elderly anyone under heavy stress and those with compromised immune systems.

"This could include people undergoing treatment for chemotherapy for example," said Tarchini.

Wendy Fabricant was vaccinated two years ago.

"I heard people just suffering a lot of pain and maybe permanent damage and that was frightening to hear," she said.

At the time her husband Michael also wanted to be vaccinated but couldn't because of underlying health issues.

In late 2011, he contracted shingles and still feels the effects of the rash that developed near his left eye.

"If I bend over my head it seems like the nerves kind of get woken up and then I feel a little tingly right there," he said.

Now that his health is improving, Fabricant will be able to get the vaccine.

"I think I'll feel much more comfortable, safer, knowing that the shot will preclude any additional attacks, I hope," he said.

Studies have shown that people who suffer with the pain from shingles for more than two months have a greater likelihood of having recurring cases of the disease.

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