What do Amy Grant, Golda Meir and Richard Nixon have in common? They've all had shingles: nerve inflammation caused by the reawakened chickenpox virus. (Once you've had chickenpox, the virus lurks dormant in your body.) Shingles starts with a burning or tingling sensation, then a rash (or blisters) appears, usually on one side of your body. During and after an attack, you might experience excruciating nerve pain.
You CAN dodge that bullet. About a year ago, we told you that the shingles vaccine was approved for people 50 and older. But only around 10 percent of people who are eligible for it (and benefit enormously from it) ever get the vaccine. We bet it's because of Internet buzz about safety concerns and the fact that most people aren't really aware that every third person in the U.S. gets shingles. That's more than 1 million cases a year.
Good news! A massive study of almost 200,000 people shows that the live vaccine poses no increased risk for cerebrovascular disease (stroke); cardiovascular disease (heart attack), meningitis, encephalitis, encephalopathy, Ramsay-Hunt syndrome or Bell's palsy. It's safe and well-tolerated.
True, the vaccine doesn't protect you completely from shingles, but it reduces your risk by up to 70 percent. (The younger you are, the more it protects.) And if you end up with shingles, having been vaccinated makes the attack milder, with less-severe post-infection pain. So remember: There's little risk from the vaccine, and a much bigger one from skipping it. Take a shot; it's a win-win situation.
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.