Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus stays inactive in the body for life and can reactivate years, or even decades later, causing shingles

Did you know...
If you ever had the chickenpox virus, you are at risk for shingles. About 98% of US adults have had chickenpox and are at risk for shingles.
Why vaccinate adults against shingles?

  • You have a greater chance of getting shingles as you age, which is why the shingles vaccine is recommended for everyone age 60 years and older.
  • Because shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingle--including about 98% of US adults.
  • Shingles can affect people who are at risk at any time, however, it is more severe in those age 60 years and older.
  • Half of the population who lives to age 85 will experience shingles during their lifetime, but currently only about 24% of adults age 60 years and older receive the shingles vaccine.
  • There is a safe, effective vaccine available to help prevent shingles. The vaccine is the best way to reduce your chance of developing shingles or, if you do get it, it can reduce your chances of long-lasting pain. 

Who needs the shingles vaccine?

  • The shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults age 60 and older.

What happens when someone gets shingles?
  • Shingles causes a painful rash that can be severe. The shingles rash usually develops on one side of the face or body. You may not be able to see the first signs of the rash, but you might feel pain, itching, or tingling in the areas where the rash will develop.
  • The virus can cause nerve pain that can last for months or even years. The older you are, the greater your risk of long-term nerve pain. Long-term nerve pain has been described as burning, stabbing, throbbing, or shooting.
  • Shingles can also develop in the eyes and cause vision loss.
  • Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, upset stomach, muscle weakness, skin infection, scarring, and decrease or loss of vision or hearing.
  • Even after the rash is gone, some may experience a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN can cause intense pain where the rash was and the pain can be very hard to treat, especially in older adults.
  • Shingles is a potentially disabling disease and can have a huge impact on the quality of life for those who have it as well as their caretakers.

Why is the shingles vaccine important?

  • The vaccine is the best way to reduce your chance of developing shingles or, if you do get it, to reduce your chances of long-lasting pain.
  • If you’ve already had shingles, the disease can come back. You can get the shingles vaccine (6 to 12 months after you’ve had shingles) to help prevent future occurrences of the disease.

What else should you know about the shingles vaccine?
  • The shingles vaccine is available in pharmacies and doctors' offices.
  • The shingles vaccine is a one-time vaccination.
  • The shingles vaccine reduces the risk of shingles by half (51%) and reduces the risk of prolonged pain at the rash site by 67%.
  • Medicare covers the cost of the vaccine for those age 65 years and older.
  • For most people between 60 and 65 the vaccine is fully or partially covered by private health insurance. Contact your insurance provider to see if they cover the shingles vaccine.

What should you do now?
  • The next time you are at your doctor’s office or pharmacy, ask about the shingles vaccine.

FAQ: How are chickenpox and shingles related?
Chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus. The virus that gave you chickenpox as a child continues to “hide” in the body long after chickenpox has gone away. Years or even decades later, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles. It travels along nerve endings toward your skin and causes pain, itching, and the shingles rash.