Get the Shingles Vaccine - Continued

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
January 04, 2018

How long does shingles last?

The early symptoms of shingles are a burning or tingling pain on your skin; you might also feel numb or itchy on one side. Some patients develop sharp, stabbing nerve pain that makes it unpleasant even to wear clothing. When the stabs are the only symptom, some patients end up in the hospital fearing heart disease or appendicitis. But nearly always a distinctive red rash appears within five days. The spots turn into blisters over time, a misery that can last up to five weeks.

From 10 to 50 percent of patients also suffer lingering nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, for months or years.

Blisters can become infected. If a rash on your face spreads into your eyes, you can lose your vision. A rash around your ear can lead to Ramsey Hunt syndrome, marked by hearing loss and weak facial muscles.

In one famous case a woman scratched all the way through her scalp into her brain.

Can you get shingles twice?

Alas, yes. About 5 percent of patients get another episode within eight years on average. People who had pain lasting more than a month with their first outbreak are more likely to have a second one.

Can you get shingles if you had the chickenpox vaccine?

Since the chickenpox vaccine was only approved in 1996, it’s too soon to know what will happen when people who got it as children pass middle age.

What are the side-effects of the shingles vaccine?

Like any medicine, vaccines can trigger an allergic reaction. Rarely people may get a headache, and about one in three may see soreness, swelling, or itching at the site of the injection. The new vaccine could turn out to have rare or lasting side effects that have not appeared yet in the big clinical trials. But remember that getting shingles isn’t a small matter.

How effective is Shingrex, really?

A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that it was 97 percent effective. Another concluded that it was 91 percent successful in people over 70.


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April 07, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN