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Ask the Expert: Is there any way to protect against shingles?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Chindanoor Rajesh, M.D. Chindanoor Rajesh, M.D.​​
Internal medicine
Marshfield Clinic Weston Center
Question: Is there any way to protect against shingles?​

A safe, effective shingles vaccine is now available for people aged 60 or older.

The vaccine cuts the risk of developing shingles in half and can also reduce shingles pain.

Shingles is a common disorder primarily affecting older people. It is caused by varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

When a person contracts chickenpox, some of the viruses lie dormant in nerve cells, probably for life.

Later if the immune system weakens -- because of illness, medication or age -- the virus can reactivate.

Shingles usually appears as a painful rash in a band on one side of the body, most commonly on the trunk but occasionally on the head, face, or extremity.

Prolonged pain is a common long-term outcome, even after the rash has disappeared.

The older you are, the more severe the effects of shingles typically are, so all adults aged 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine.

The Zostavax vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus which helps your immune system resist shingles. You should not receive it if you have a severely weakened immune system.

If you are 60 or older, ask your physician about the shingles vaccine. It is the best protection we have against this common and miserable disease.

​Marshfield Clinic provides Internal Medicin​e​ in a number of our centers. ​