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By Lauren McCoy

BATON ROUGE, LA (WGMB) – It’s itchy and can be downright painful.

“So, if you’ve had chicken pox, that virus goes to sleep in your system back when you were a kid and stays asleep inside of your nerves for decades, and then periods of acute stress or immune system taking a hit or your immune system kind of declines a little bit as you get older that can wake up the shingles virus,” said Dr. Joseph Larriviere, an internist at the Baton Rouge Clinic. “Shingles is a painful rash that occurs only on one side of the body. It won’t cross the midline. It almost looks like pimples, a small cluster of pimples that are very red. They are very painful to the touch. I hear patients say all the time that having their shirt touch it is extremely painful, and even having the bed sheets touch it. The rash is so painful.”

Dr. Larriviere tells me shingles can happen to anyone.

“As far as gender is concerned, there is a slight tendency toward women, 60/40, compared to men, and then same thing to Caucasian to African-American, about 60% Caucasian,” explained Dr. Larriviere. “Shingles does discriminate when it comes to age, however, someone who is 70 or 80 is about tenfold more likely to get shingles than someone who is 20 or 30.”

Now, what are the risks for women specifically?

“If you pregnant and do contract shingles, it is okay. It’s not harmful to the baby, but having chicken pox while pregnant is a different story,” said Dr. Larriviere.

So, how is it treated?

“We use anti-virals, sometimes steroids, or nerve pain medicines. It’s kind of a case by case basis with your doctor,” said Dr. Larriviere. “So, the key thing to know about shingles is that even though it is contagious, it is only contagious to someone who has never had chicken pox or who has never had the chicken pox vaccine. That’s a small percentage of the population, 95% of people have had chicken pox, and around 99% of children under the age of 24 or so have been vaccinated.”

Dr. Larriviere said if you get them don’t worry, just make sure to contact your doctor, and as technology advances, so do the methods of treatment.

“So, there’s actually a new vaccine that is in phase three of clinical trials in Boston right now. It’s a new two part vaccine that has been shown to be very effective. If that is shown to be safe and effective as it’s showing in these trials it should be coming to market in the coming years, and that one is extraordinarily effective. We might be looking at rates in the upper 90th percentile as far as preventability of shingles,” concluded Dr. Larriviere.

Dr. Larriviere said if you do catch shingles on your face, near your eyes, it has a potential of causing blindness. If this happens to you, contact your doctor, immediately.

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