Shingles is a painful burning, itching rash caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox. After a person gets chicken pox, the virus can lie dormant in nerve tissue and may “wake up” at some later time to cause shingles—so anyone who has had chicken pox can develop shingles. Most cases of shingles develop in people over 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you’ve had chicken pox and are over 50, ask your physician about the shingles vaccine. Even if you don’t think you’ve had chicken pox, talk to your doctor. The CDC notes that research has shown that 99 percent of Americans over age 40 have had chicken pox, although many of them don’t remember getting the disease.
People choosing to get the shingles vaccine now have two options: Zostavax, the older vaccine, and a newer vaccine called Shingrix. The newer vaccine may be more effective than Zostavax in preventing the nerve pain that can remain after the shingles rash clears up. It may also be advantageous for people who have had the older vaccine to be vaccinated with Shingrix. Your physician can recommend the appropriate vaccine for your needs.