Shingles may be necessary on the roof to keep out our wet Portland weather, but the word should send a chill up the spine of anyone who’s not a roofer. Shingles is a skin disease that can be exceedingly painful. If you had chicken pox when you were little, you can get shingles when you pass your 50th birthday.
We can treat the pain of shingles at Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, and we can give you an effective vaccine called Shingrix.
What is shingles?
The same virus that is behind chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus, is the culprit behind shingles. Shingles will show itself as a painful rash on the skin, usually as a single strip of rash on the face or the body. You have to have had chicken pox to later develop shingles. The virus resides in nerve tissue near the person’s brain and spinal cord, but is dormant after the chicken pox outbreak. Then, particularly after the age of 50, it can rear its ugly head as shingles.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
Shingles doesn’t usually become its painful self initially. First, the person may begin to get headaches and become somewhat sensitive to light. Flu-like symptoms, without fever, come next.
Then the fun starts. The next stage will result in shooting or burning pain on one side of the body or face. There may also be itching and tingling sensations. The pain varies from person to person but it can become severe. After two weeks, rashes may appear on the face or body, becoming clusters of blisters in a few days. These rashes will usually heal in two to four weeks, but the pain can linger for weeks, months, even a couple years.
Stress, illness, and certain medications that compromise the immune system can trigger a shingles outbreak. Once a person has a shingles outbreak, it usually won’t happen again.
How is shingles treated?
At the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery, the best treatment for shingles is to go on offense with a relatively new vaccine called Shingrix. It’s intended for people who are over age 50 and had chicken pox as children. Previous shingles vaccines have been less than impressive in their results, with somewhere around 50% success rates. Shingrix has proven to be 97% effective in preventing shingles in adults aged 50 to 69 who got two doses. In adults over 70, it was 91% effective.
The problem right now is supply. While patients are advised to get the second dose (it is a two-dose vaccine) within 2-6 months after the first dose, there currently is a shortage. The manufacturer has been having trouble supplying enough of the vaccine to keep up with demand.
If you’re over 50, call us at the Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery to see if we have the Shingrix vaccine or when we are scheduled to receive our next shipment, (503) 297-3440. And if we don’t have it, we probably can direct you to someone who does.