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You may have the shingles virus living inside you at this very minute. When the virus reactivates, it can cause symptoms including a painful rash.

In most cases, shingles are painful, but the condition clears in about a month. In some instances, complications lead to more serious and possibly long-lasting problems.

Shingles Complications  

Complications from shingles can be both short-term and long-lasting.

For example, a bacterial infection can develop. Staph is a very common bacterium, which can enter through an open blister. If a bacterial skin infection develops, it can slow down healing and prolong the pain. [5]

Shingles can also affect the eyes. Shingles can start in the eye or spread to the eye from the face. When the eye is infected, symptoms include redness in the eyes, blisters on the eyelids, and eye pain. People with shingles in the eye should see their doctor immediately. Scarring of the cornea can occur, which may damage vision and possibly lead to complete vision loss. [6]

One of the long-term complications of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia. It is also the most common complication of the condition. Post-herpetic neuralgia can cause pain, tingling, and numbness in various areas of the body. Additional symptoms may include decreased appetite, problems sleeping and fatigue. Symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia may last for months or years. [7

Studies have also indicated that having shingles may increase your risk of having a heart attack by more than 40 percent in the future. Shingles cause inflammation. What researchers theorize is that the inflammation associated with the virus may travel to blood vessels in the body. The inflammation causes damage to the blood vessels carrying blood to the heart, which may later block flow and lead to a heart attack. [8]

Is The Shingles Vaccine Right For You?

There are things you can do to prevent getting the shingles virus. If you have never had chickenpox, speak to your doctor about getting the vaccine. In addition, there is also a shingles vaccine, which doctors recommend for certain age groups.

According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, adults over the age of 60 should get a shingles vaccine. The older a person gets, the higher is the risk of getting shingles. That is why the vaccine is recommended for adults over the age of 60.  It is possible to get shingles more than once. People who have had the infection may still get the vaccine in order to prevent future infections with shingles. [9]

Although the vaccine is also approved for ages 50 to 59, there are no specific recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or other institutions for this age group. Individuals who are in their 50s and have a history of chickenpox should talk to their doctor and determine if the vaccine is the right choice for them.

Side effects from the vaccine are considered rare, but they can occur. The most common side effects include a headache and soreness at the vaccination site. Itching and redness at the injection site may also occur. [9]

In addition to getting the vaccine, the best way to reduce your chances of developing shingles is by keeping your immune system as strong as possible. Getting enough rest is always a great way to keep your immune system functioning well. Eating a healthy diet including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables also gives your immune system a boost.