As a result of vigorous drug company advertising and recommendations made by several health organizations, many patients have come to me asking if I advise getting the shingles vaccine.
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful rash occurring on one side of the body only. It usually involves the chest or abdomen, but may affect any area, including the face. Direct involvement of the eye, though uncommon, is a medical emergency, since vision may be permanently impaired.
Shingles is due only to reactivation of the chickenpox virus that has been dormant in the body, usually for years. It does not occur by transmission from other individuals. Factors that impair immune function, such as physical or emotional stress, nutritional deficiency or steroid use, may activate the virus from its location within nerve cells, where it resides.