Health + Wellness

Contracting Shingles Can Be Costly

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Apart from being a debilitating disease, contracting Shingles can also be a costly affair.

Herpes Zoster, or Shingles as it is more commonly known is a painful blistering rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. And a recent study conducted by Singapore’s National Skin Centre has found out that about one in five shingles patients experienced pain for more than one month.

In addition, the average total bill for treatment, along with the economic cost of not working, could run up to more than S$300, according to a study by the National Skin Centre. The study which is based on 347 shingles patients also found that the duration of pain increases with age, with the rash causing long-lasting nerve pain for months or even years.

Shingles occurs more frequently in those aged 50 and above and is caused by the re-activation of the dormant varicella zoster virus linked to one’s spinal cord when there is a temporary decrease in the body’s resistance. The virus will then multiply and move along the nerve fibres to the skin, resulting a burning pain or tingling sensation to the skin. This may be present for one to three days before a red rash occurs. Groups of blisters on a red base usually follow. The blisters last for two to three weeks, during which time pus may appear and then crust over and begin to disappear. The pain may last longer. The blisters usually appear on only one side of the body.

There is no cure for shingles and one in three people who had chicken pox will develop shingles in their lifetime, however, a vaccine is available and is recommended for people who are above 50 years old. Known as Zostavax, the vaccine costs between S$220 and S$250, and is available at most general practitioners, private specialists and hospitals. However, the efficacy of the vaccine decreases with age, so it is highly recommended that you seek your general practitioner’s opinion.

 

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