Shingles Vaccination

Shingles is an infection of a nerve area which is brought on by a virus known as herpes varicella-zoster. The condition is caused when the virus is reactivated having lay dormant after a bout of childhood chickenpox. Although the virus can affect people of all ages, shingles is most prevalent in the over 50’s with common cases lasting 2-4 weeks and possible after affects being felt for a long time afterwards.

Shingles can happen for no apparent reason but a weakened immune system is thought to be a big factor in the reactivation of the virus. There is currently no cure for the condition but medication, treatments and a shingles vaccination are available to help to reduce the severity, and in the case of the vaccination, reduce the risk of getting the virus.

Who is given the shingles vaccination?

A shingles vaccination is used in countries such as the United States for people between the ages of 50 and 59 to provide immunity from shingles. The vaccination used is called Zostavax and is provided to all members of society in the eligible age group and has helped reduce the overall rate of shingles cases by 55% in the US.

The UK does not currently offer the vaccination on a population based practice and there are currently no plans to do so; however there is a varicella vaccination in place for health workers who do not have immunity from chickenpox to avoid them ever being able to pass on the condition to patients. This has been in place for non-varicella immune National Health Workers since 2005.

As a result of no population-based vaccination being in place in the UK, other forms of medication are widely used to help treat the shingles virus.

Shingles medication treatments

As opposed to relying on a shingles vaccination, common practice in the UK is to let the virus run its course and provide the necessary medication to help ease the symptoms and reduce how long the shingles will last. Medication is generally supplied by a GP and will usually combine painkilling medication with antiviral medication and some self-help techniques.

Painkilling medication that is provided by GP’s will be given depending on the severity of the pain; this can vary from being mild to being intense and prolonged. In many of the cases, especially those in children and young adults, paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory’s such as ibuprofen are enough to ease any pain. If the symptoms of pain are more severe, an opioid such as codeine or antidepressants and anticonvulsants such as amitriptyline and pregabalin may be used, to dampen down the sensitivity of the affected nerves and ease pain.

The most common form of treatment prescribed in favour of a shingles vaccination is antiviral medication. This has excellent benefits in stopping the virus from multiplying and can reduce the overall severity of the condition as-well as help to speed up recovery. Antiviral’s also have benefits in lowering the risk of complication as a result of shingles.




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