Many adults know what chickenpox is and have even had it as a child. However, few people are aware that if they have had chickenpox, they face the possibility of developing shingles later in life.

Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you have ever had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus is nestled within the nerve issue near your spinal cord and brain. While the virus is usually inactive, there is the possibility it can reactivate years later in the form of shingles.

Fortunately, shingles isn’t a deadly condition, but it can be very painful. Shingle manifests in the form of a painful rash. While shingles can occur anywhere on the body, it is most common for a stripe of blisters to appear on the left or right side of the torso.

Common symptoms of shingles include:

  • Pain
  • Burning Sensation
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • The appearance of a red rash a few days after pain begins
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Itching

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important you make an appointment with your local healthcare provider to make sure you don’t have shingles. It is especially important you contact your doctor if the rash or pain is near your eyes. If left untreated, an infection near the eyes can lead to irreparable eye damage.

While shingles is more common in older adults, it can happen to anyone. Anyone with a weakened immune system faces a greater chance of developing this infection. Shingles can be an incredibly painful experience. It’s crucial that you arm yourself with knowledge about shingles to protect yourself from it.

Remember, the sooner you seek treatment, the faster you can stop the discomfort and pain of shingles. Here are 6 important things you need to know about shingles.

1.) 1 In 3 People Will Develop Shingles

There are nearly one million of cases of shingles in the United States each year, according to CDC data. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, have a poor immune system, or over the age of fifty, you are at risk of developing shingles. In fact, almost half of the shingle cases that occur each year are in people who ages sixty and older.

2.) There Is No Cure For Shingles

Once a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus never truly leaves. Instead it becomes inactive, lying dormant in your nerve tissue. While you can never eliminate the virus from your body, you can take prescribed antiviral medications that can help clear up the painful rash faster, especially if you start taking the medication early on. It is possible to go through shingles more than once. Make sure you take the necessary steps to prevent shingles from reoccurring, or from evening happening once.

3.) A Shingles Vaccine Exists

While there is no cure for shingles, a vaccine does exist. In 2006 study, a vaccine called Zostavax was shown to dramatically reduce the chances of developing shingles. In addition, the vaccine is even better at reducing the chance of a person developing lingering pain.

Unfortunately, according to CDC data, no more than 25% of seniors get this important vaccine each year. If you are over the age of sixty, it’s important that you discuss getting the shingles vaccine with your primary care physician. After all, getting this vaccine can greatly reduce your chance of experiencing this painful infection. Remember, it is possible to get shingles more than once. Make sure you get your shingles vaccine each year to maximize your protection.

Residents of California’s Central Coast can easily get their shingles vaccine at one of Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice’s Community Clinics. VNA strives to provide its patients with the best medical care possible, which is why they have the new shingles vaccine.

This new and improved vaccine is called Shingrix and is estimated to be 90% effective. Shingrix is a 2 dose series that is given 2 to 6 months apart. This new vaccine is so effective, the CDC recommends anyone ages fifty or older gets Shingrix. Even if you’ve already gotten the old vaccine, you can still get Shingrix for maximum shingles prevention.

4.) Shingles Can Be Contagious

For most people, shingles is not contagious. However, if someone has never had chickenpox, they have the chance of catching the varicella-zoster virus from someone who has shingles. While chickenpox is uncomfortable to have as a child, it can be disastrous for adults. In fact, some adults who catch chickenpox can end up in intensive care.

If you were born before doctors started vaccinating children in 1995, it is very likely that you’ve been exposed to the chickenpox virus. It’s even possible that you’ve had a mild case of the chickenpox and never even realized it.

5.) Pain Can Remain Even After The Rash Disappears

Up to 20% of the people who develop shingles end up getting postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a chronic burning nerve pain that occurs at the site of the shingles outbreak. This may be due to continued inflammation or possible nerve damage.

The risk of developing PHN increases with age, as studies show the 80% of PHN cases are patients over the age of fifty. While the pain usually lasts from a few weeks to a few months, some people can experience sever and debilitating pain for years. It is crucial that you take the proper preventative steps, like getting the shingles vaccine, to prevent PHN from happening to you.

6.) The Best Defense Is A Healthy Immune System

There are many benefits to maintaining a healthy immune system and shingles prevention is one of them. If you’re over the age of sixty you face a greater risk of developing shingles. This may be due to our immune systems weakening as we age. However, it is possible to keep your immune system strong by living a healthy lifestyle. Doing any of the following is a great way to maintain your immune system as you age:

  • Get plenty of rest each night
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Reduce the daily stress in your life
  • Get regular health exams

If you want the strongest protection against shingles, follow these daily habits to keep your immune system healthy and get your shingles vaccine. This winning combination will greatly decrease your chances of developing shingles.