What is shingles and should a person with diabetes get the shingles vaccination?
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the virus varicella zoster. This is a herpes virus that causes chicken pox with the first activation. After a person has chicken pox the virus hides in a person’s nerve roots. If reactivated, the virus presents as painful lesions called shingles (herpes zoster). It is found that approximately 20% of patients who develop shingles will have postherpetic neuralgia. This is a condition where there is severe pain along a nerve fiber due to damage to the nerve that can last months or even years. Eye involvement is found in 10-25% of people with shingles.
You have approximately a 30% chance of having shingles in your lifetime and if you have had it, you can get it again. If you have shingles and come in contact with someone who never was vaccinated against chickenpox or had the active disease, they may develop chickenpox.
According to PubMed you are more likely to develop shingles if:
- You are older than 60
- You had chickenpox before age 1
- Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease
In 2011 the FDA approved the shingles vaccination for people age 50 and older. Clinical trials by the manufacturer of the vaccine found the vaccination to be approximately 70% effective in those 50-60 years of age and if they got shingles, it was less painful and was of shorter duration. The results of the shingles prevention study (median age of participants 69 years of age) showed vaccination reduced the incidence of shingles by 61% and postherpetic neuralgia by 66%.
According to the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic renal failure, coronary artery disease, chronic lung disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, are not considered contraindications to the vaccine. This means you should ask your physician if this vaccination is for you.
The CDC recommends the following people should not get the shingles vaccine if he/she:
- has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.
- has a weakened immune system because of current:
- AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
- treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as prolonged use of high-dose steroids,
- cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Someone with a minor acute illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone with a moderate or severe acute illness should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101.3° F or higher.
If you are to come in contact with a pregnant women or an infant, ask your healthcare professional about the timing to getting vaccinated.
For more information on shingles, please go to the following websites: