Shingles is an acute illness characterized by the outbreak of an extremely painful rash located on one side of the body. The outbreak can involve the eye and threaten vision. The proper name for shingles is herpes zoster. The zoster virus is the cause of chicken pox a self limited illness that usually occurs in younger people. After the initial outbreak the virus remains latent in nerve cells. Years after the initial outbreak the virus can activate and cause the classical symptoms of shingles. These outbreaks are more common in those over 60 and those with weak immune systems.
A preventative vaccine for shingles is available. A new review showed that the shot reduces the risk of developing shingles by about 50% and reduces the severity of an outbreak if one occurs. The FDA has approved the vaccine for people ages 50 and older.
The vaccine is not perfect, but given the severity of shingles we strongly recommend it's use if you are 50 or older.