Act now to protect yourself from shingles

A painful disease with debilitating side effects, but there is a vaccine

Waging war on shingles

Ever had shingles? Or know someone who has?

My father developed shingles shortly after he retired. The doctor was slow to diagnose it, so he didn’t get the appropriate treatment in time to prevent serious nerve damage in one eye. His life was never the same – constant pain that peaked whenever there was a change in the weather. It was debilitating to say the least.

My sister has also had shingles. The complications nearly killed her and, again, she has to live with the complications as best she can.

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus which also causes chicken pox. Once you’ve had chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in the nerve cells, controlled by the immune system. But because the immune system becomes less effective with age, the virus can be reactivated and cause shingles.

The first indication you may be getting shingles is often oversensitivity or a painful burning sensation in the affected area, usually your chest. Other symptoms can include a rash, headaches, sensitivity to light, blisters, itching and tingling.

If you develop these symptoms, you should contact your GP as quickly as possible, because early treatment can make the symptoms less severe.

This is a reminder that a vaccine is available – a single-dose injection that is recommended for all adults aged 60 years and over, unless they are allergic to any of the ingredients or have a disease that lowers their immunity.

The vaccine is free for all people aged 70 through the National Shingles Vaccination Program, with a five-year catch-up campaign in operation for anyone aged 71–79.

For those who want to be vaccinated, ask your doctor. When I got my prescription last week, I was told the cost would be about $200. Gulp, but having seen the pain it can cause, I’m saving up.

A Shingles Prevention Study of about 38,000 subjects aged 60 years and older found that the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 51.3 per cent and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is when the symptoms last three months or more, was reduced by 66.6 per cent.

People who have been vaccinated can still get shingles – and people who have had the disease before can get it again – but the symptoms are likely to be milder and less likely to lead to PHN.

The health department says that one dose offers protection for between five and 10 years. A booster dose is not currently recommended.

Key causes of shingles include:

  • Being over 50
  • A period of increased stress
  • Long-term course of corticosteroids
  • Any condition that affects the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or leukaemia
  • Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Shingles isn't triggered by contact with someone who has chickenpox and it isn't infectious in the same way as chickenpox. However, it can be passed on by direct contact with fluid from shingles blisters.

For more information about the shingles vaccine, speak to your GP or visit the Immunise Australia website.

Have you had shingles? Was it diagnosed in time?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Dec 2017
    I was advised to get my shingles vaccine but was refused because of one of my medications. Very concerned now, but there is nothing I can do about it, but I would advise that everyone should have it before they are 79, as after then you have to pay for it and it's not cheap.
    21st Dec 2017
    Over 2 weeks of intense facial pain tingles and spikes(no rash) was cured in 2 days by a single shingle injection (free).
    The GP was expecting to see a rash but seems to me that is not always the case
    Good choices
    21st Dec 2017
    If you have had Shingles then you will not need (or be given) the Vaccine, ask your Doctor. If you haven't had Chickenpox then you are in danger of getting it from the fluid from Shingles blisters.
    21st Dec 2017
    I am 57 & I contracted Shingles when I was in my early teens. I had to endure calamine lotion on my body for weeks. I cant stand the smell of it even now. I have numbness around my upper back on the left. The GP I saw said if the rash meets up you will die...then added it was an Old Wives tale. Still scared me to death. My rash joined up.
    21st Dec 2017
    A male friend has had shingles several times, but because he is in his early 60s he's been denied the free shot. His wife told me that the nurse said he couldn't have the injection, but I think she must have been referring to the "freebie". I shall pass on the message from here about being able to get the shingles shot, but at $200. He might feel that it's worth it!
    21st Dec 2017
    I got shingles in my right arm, from fingertips and hand to upper arm about 3 years ago. I didn't know there was a vaccine. As I'm on corticosteroid steroids the vaccine wouldn't work anyway, my current GP tells me.
    Just about the most painful thing I have ever experienced, plus the pain wasn't short term, it hung around for wbput a year, gradually reducing,l but with often extreme pain iIke an electrical shock even as it reduced from the damaged nerves. Eventually the pain went.
    I was left with.a claw hand with my outer r. hand fingers curled over , although the hand specialist tells me that they're not connected, but from corticosteroid induced arthritis which has totally destroyed my right wrist joint. Seems too coincidental to me as I had absolutely no arthritis in it before the shingles, evidenced from x-rays and scans a couple of years before.
    Get the vaccine if you can take it . I'm no longer in pain from it, but very unhappy with it's after effects, I had the antiviral, but it didn't do anything.
    21st Dec 2017
    I wonder why I, who have a family history of shingles, have to pay for it when I am an old age Pensioner. Oh yeah could take a dolar out of our Polly ruined world
    23rd Dec 2017
    Shingles certainly can be nasty. Get the vaccine once you hit 70 for sure. Whether vaccinated or not, go to the GP immediately if you have a painful discrete area on the body or face followed by a blistery type rash. The affected area will almost always be confined to one side of the body. The anti-viral tablets (treatment, rather than a prevention like the vaccine) work well but only if started within three days of the appearance of the rash. Time is of the essence. The tablets shorten the illness and reduce post-shingles pain.
    29th Dec 2017
    There are 31 varieties of the shingles virus, so the vaccine cannot work on all of them. About 15 of them are the more common ones. Only 7 cause rashes. It is not caused by chicken pox. Ideal foods to fight it or prevent is wild blueberries, coconuts, papayas, red-skinned apples, pears, artichokes, banana's, sweet potatoes, spinach, asparagus, lettuce (ones that are leafy and deep green or red), green beans and avocados. Foods to stay away from are corn products, canola and whey protein powder the virus dramatically. Getting your immune system healthy is the key to preventing and beating shingles. Eat lots of fruit and green leafy vegies. (Borrow a book from the library called 'Medical Medium' by Anthony William for more insight).
    30th Dec 2017
    Thanks, musicveg. Good info.

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