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Shingles: A Painful Reminder Of Chickenpox

Vaccine for Herpes Zoster (shingles)

No one’s sure why. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found annual rates of shingles have been on the rise in the U-S. It’s a highly uncomfortable disease that strikes adults who’ve already had chickenpox.

Dr. Brian Jones, a family health physician with Methodist Family Health Center in Cedar Hill, talked about shingles in this edition of Vital Signs.

From Dr. Jones’ interview…

What is shingles? A reactivation of the chickenpox virus. So, when someone has chickenpox as a child or at any point in their life, they’ll resolve that illness, but it never ever completely goes away. The virus actually will lay dormant in the nerve cells in the body. And then later on in times of stress or illness or sometimes just seemingly out of the blue, the virus will reactivate and form a rash that’s localize to that nerve distribution and that’s what we call shingles.

Why does that virus reactivate in some people who’ve had chickenpox and not others? We don’t have the exact answer. In most people you would have to say it relates to stress. We can see it reactivate more than once in some people, but there are a good number of people who’ll go through life and never have shingles.

How serious a threat is shingles to your health? It can turn into encephalitis or myelitis or a cranial nerve dysfunction or even strokes and other complications. It can also affect vision.

Can shingles be prevented?  We do have vaccines available for the prevention of shingles. They are indicated for anyone over the age of 60, especially those at higher rate for shingles.

For more information:

Shingles – A Clinical Overview 

Chickenpox Vaccine Not Responsible for Rise in Shingles, Study Says 

Why Are Shingles Cases Rising In The U.S.? 

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.