Shingles, a viral condition, affects two out of every 10 people and may result in a debilitating condition which is a serious complication in individuals over the age of 60. For these individuals, if previously infected with the chicken pox virus, varicella-zoster, considering a treatment option against an outbreak of shingles is your first line of defense. When discussing options, consult your physician regarding the use of the FDA approved vaccine Zostavax. With appropriate dosing, monitoring of contraindications and knowledge of side effects, Zostavax may provide the solution to relieving the painful symptoms of shingles including swollen lesions and prolonged neurological complications.
Zostavax, a product of Merck, was designed in the treatment of shingles. Developed as a live virus vaccine, Zostavax exhibits significant potential in the area of enhanced natural immunity against the varicella-zoster virus associated with chicken pox and, later in life, shingles. With recent developments of the chicken pox vaccine, the future is bright for the elimination of the virus altogether. Unfortunately, for those who have been infected with the chicken pox virus, the potential for an outbreak of shingles can happen at any time especially into late adulthood. Lying stagnant in the body, the virus will re-appear as shingles and affect one side of the body resulting in development of lesions which can last for a few days and may extend as long as several years. Although the Zostavax vaccine is not a cure, it does boost the body’s natural immune system to prevent the shingles outbreak.
Dosing of Zostavax injections, in adults over age 60, is based on a single subcutaneous injection. Your physician will determine the appropriate time for dosing following a physical examination. Due to Zostavax’s impact on the immune system, individuals suffering from immune deficiency disorders such as HIV or leukemia, should be closely monitored by a physician following the injection. Additionally, it is recommended that, as a pre-cautionary measure, an epinephrine injection be made available should a anaphylactic reaction occur.
Zostavax, in the treatment of shingles, does not come without side effects. However, most side effects will dissipate in the days following the injection. Common side effects may include swelling and redness at the injection site and headache. Some patients may develop cardiac complications but this is noted to be a rare occurrence.
As with most immunizations and vaccinations, there are contraindications to the treatment in the use of Zostavax during pregnancy. The injection, at present, is a classified Category C drug for pregnancy meaning it is unknown what impact the injection may have on a fetus. As a result, Zostavax should only be used when no other alternate form of treatment is available. Patients with any cardiac condition, should consult a physician carefully before considering injection.
As with any disease, prevention is the key to maintaining good health. Maintaining proper immunizations, including the chicken pox immunization, may decrease the implications of a shingles outbreak later in life. Understanding the conditions which precipitate shingles may be your best key for prevention. Because the condition is a result of the varicella-zoster virus, choosing to avoid individuals with an outbreak may be your first line of defense. If you are over the age of 60 and have suffered with a chicken pox outbreak in prior years, discuss the Zostavax vaccine as a proactive options in an effort to build your natural immune system against a shingles outbreak.