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Latest News and Research Concerning Shingles in 2013

Shingles, a painful rash, is caused by the herpes zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The majority of people who get shingles will have had an episode of chickenpox when they were a child. The virus lies dormant in their nerves being held in check by their immune system. However, if their immune system is compromised in some manner, the virus can flare up later in life.

Vaccine Boosts Immune Response to Ward off Shingles and Complications

Occasionally, shingles also causes damage to the nerves, a potential complication of this painful condition. Known as post-herpetic neuralgia, this pain can linger for months or even years. This is especially common among the elderly.

There is a shingles vaccine that can be administered which helps boost the immune system’s response to shingles and ward off post-herpetic neuralgia. It is recommended for people over 60 years old. Previous studies have indicated that this vaccine can reduce the chances of contracting shingles and being afflicted by long lasting pain, if a patient does get shingles. However, the majority of these studies used quite small samplings of subjects or only examined specific groups. Not as much information is known about the way the shingles vaccine benefits large groups of individuals when used in practice.

New Study Confirms Benefits of Shingles Vaccine

A large U.S. study, completed in 2011, showed that older adults are half as likely to get shingles if they had a shingles vaccination. In addition, if they did develop shingles, the vaccine can reduce the chances of suffering from lingering pain. Shingles researchers obtained data on approximately 766,000 subjects who: lived in the US, were 65 years or older, and participated in a large government sponsored health program (Ramsey, 2011).

Comparisons were done between those who had been vaccinated against shingles and those who had not. Results showed that, for every 1,000 individuals who were given the vaccine, approximately five developed shingles within a year as compared with 10 in every 1,000 subjects who did not get the vaccine. Patients who were vaccinated against shingles, but still developed it, were much less likely to have pain a month or more after developing the condition. In a one year period, about two out of every 10,000 people who had the vaccine experienced pain as compared to six or seven out of 10,000 people who did not receive the vaccine.

This kind of research study cannot definitively prove “cause and effect” meaning. It is not an absolute certainty that people who receive the vaccine will have a lower risk of shingles and a decrease in lingering pain. There is a possibility that some other factor decreased this risk. However, previous studies have had similar results, making it more likely that the vaccine link is real.

If you an older individual, these study findings suggest that getting a shingles vaccination will reduce the risks of developing shingles and/or having lingering pain if you happen to still get it. If you are interested in having the shingles vaccine, you can visit your family doctor or consult one of the many  doctors who can prescribe the vaccine through an prescription website. Then, they you go and see them to have the vaccine administered at your convenience.

Recurrent Shingles More Likely than Previously Thought

One of the reasons getting the vaccine is so important is that newer studies are questioning some long held beliefs concerning shingles. For many years, medical experts thought that it was only possible to get shingles once in your lifetime, as you are then protected from a subsequent occurrence of the herpes zoster virus. However, the results of a 2011 research study showed that recurrences of shingles may be significantly more likely than doctors previously thought and not confined to patients with compromised immune systems alone.

A research team led by Dr. Yawn (2011) examined the medical files of approximately 1,700 patients over the age of 22 years, who had a recorded episode of shingles from 1996 to 2001. Then, they searched more records to ascertain if these same patients had ever been treated for a second occurrence of shingles, following them for an average of eight years. Data indicated the recurrence rate was greater than five percent and some subjects even experienced up to three episodes.

Females, who are more likely to get shingles initially, were also more prone to experience shingles more than once. Interestingly, age did not appear to be a factor that made individuals more susceptible to a subsequent shingles occurrence. Surprisingly, researchers discovered the biggest factor for reoccurrence was pain suffered by a patient during their first episode. Anyone who experienced pain lingering in excess of 30 days the first time were more likely to have a recurrence, especially in the three to four years following the initial time (Yawn, 2011).

These results suggest that the herpes zoster vaccine may help patients avoid a second episode in addition to reducing initial shingles cases by 50 percent.

This study provides further information to doctors and their patients who are discussing the probability of recurrence as well as considering a preventative strategy.

Final Thoughts

Shingles is a common condition that affects millions of adults. If you have shingles, consider consulting an  doctor for treatment. The virtual healthcare provider can offer you an online prescription, so you don’t have to make the trip in to the office.


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