Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, results from reactivation of a virus that lays dormant in the dorsal root nerve ganglia of the spinal cord of patients who had chickenpox earlier in life. It causes a painful rash that looks like small blisters, which usually occurs in a restricted distribution over the skin on one side of the body called a dermatome. There are an estimated 1 million cases of shingles yearly in the U.S. Complications include post-shingles neuralgia, or continued pain, that may require narcotics to control.
Luckily, there exists an immunization called Zostrix that’s been used for several years to prevent shingles in patients who are most likely to develop it, those over the age of 60. Just last week, however, a new shingles immunization called Shingrix was approved by the FDA and recommended as the preferred vaccine for shingles by the CDC. According to the pharmaceutical data, Shingrix has a much improved efficacy in preventing shingles—90% in all age groups. It’s being recommended for patients age 50 and above.
My recommendation: The data are pretty convincing. Shingrix is now the immunization of choice to prevent shingles.