Getting Through Shingles

Getting Through Shingles

If you have had a friend or neighbor who has experienced the pain of shingles, you may be wondering what shingles are and if there’s anything you can do to minimize the disease if it hits closer to home. While Shingles can affect individuals of any age, it is most common in 60-80 year olds.1

Shingles is a painful skin disease that is actually a reactivation of the chicken pox virus, so even if you had chicken pox as a child, unfortunately, you are still in danger of getting shingles. If you have never had chicken pox, you should avoid contact with someone who has contracted shingles – they can be contagious. On the other hand, if you had chicken pox, you cannot catch shingles from someone else. If you have not had chicken pox and were exposed to shingles, you may want to contact your physician regarding the chicken pox vaccine.

Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) must cover the shingles vaccine when medically necessary to prevent illness. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the amount of cost-sharing (money you have to pay) for vaccination varies. Medicare Part B does not cover the shingles vaccine. If you have private insurance or Medicaid, your plan may or may not cover the vaccine; contact your insurer to find out.”2

It is important to recognize the signs of shingles, because there are some treatments that if applied early, may help you manage the disease. Shingles usually only affects one side of the body, and appears in “three stages: severe pain or tingling, possibly itchy rash, and blisters that look like chickenpox.”3 Unfortunately, the pain of shingles can last for months, so it is crucial to talk to your doctor as soon as you have any concern you may have shingles. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication that can help reduce pain and complications and can shorten the course of the disease. These antiviral medications “should be started within 24 hours of feeling pain or burning, and preferably before the blisters appear.”4

1 http://nihseniorhealth.gov/shingles/aboutshingles/01.html
2 www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/vacc-need-know.htm
3 http://nihseniorhealth.gov/shingles/aboutshingles/01.html; What Causes Shingles?
4 U.S. National Library of Medicine - The World's Largest Medical Library; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001861/;

Medicare has neither reviewed nor endorsed this information.