Shingles: To Vaccinate or Not – That is NOT the Question

Shingles: To Vaccinate or Not – That is NOT the Question

Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox (virtually everyone), you are at risk of getting shingles.

  • One of every three people 60 years old or older will get shingles.
  • Half of these people will develop severe pain (post herpetic neuralgia) lasting months or even years.
  • One in 5 cases involve the eye, which can lead to serious complications including chronic pain, glaucoma and severe vision loss.

For reasons not entirely clear, the incidence of shingles has been increasing dramatically in the last 15 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of individuals who live to age 85 will develop shingles.

The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term problems that can ensue is to get vaccinated. Recently the CDC lowered the recommended age for vaccination from age 60 to 50 and older.

The really great news is the CDC recently approved a new vaccine, Shingrix. It is much more effective than the older vaccine (greater than 90% decrease in shingles versus about 60% with the previous vaccine).

Current recommendations from the federal agency responsible for immunizations recommends:

  • Shingrix be used instead of the older vaccine, Zostavax.
  • All immunocompetent individuals 50 or older receive the vaccine. Individuals with weakened immune systems including cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, patients with HIV/AIDS and individuals with certain allergies should check with their physicians.
  • People who have had shingles in the past should still receive the vaccine.
  • Individuals who have had the previous vaccine should have the newer one because Zostavax loses its effectiveness over time.

A prominent ophthalmologist who has written about the new vaccine puts it bluntly, ‘… getting shingles in your eye is one of the worst things that can happen to an eye. It can literally go on for the rest of your life.’

March 2, 2018

Diagnosing and Treating Dry Eye Disease

A quiet revolution is occurring in the field of eye care, namely the diagnosis and treatment of Dry Eye Disease (DED). Spurred by new research, specific treatments and changes in our patients’ lifestyles, this once largely-ignored disorder is of great interest to ophthalmologists and patients alike.

DED is a very common condition affecting millions of Americans. Estimates vary widely but between 8-30% of adults are affected. Symptoms include:

  • stinging, burning and redness
  • scratchy feeling as if there is something in the eyes
  • excessive tearing
  • discomfort and pain
  • difficulty reading or using an electronic device for prolonged periods

Recently recognized is the effect of DED on reading and computer work.  Sometimes called ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’, the lack of tears and ‘good tears’ causes eyestrain and loss of productivity.

Also, we are seeing more and more individuals with long-standing vague pain in and about the eyes. Patients were frustrated going from doctor to doctor looking for relief. Now we recognize that many of these people have previously undiagnosed DED.

The good news is that treatment can be highly successful. The mainstay of treatment is specific medications in eye drop form, including Restasis and the newcomer, Xiidra. Also, of great interest is the use of Omega-3 supplements. These must be of a very specific type in the re-esterified triglyceride form, NOT available in drugstores. Artificial tears are used for minor symptoms.

Ophthalmologists recognize that a variety of eyelid problems often play a very important role in DED. Treatment directed at these problems, e.g. blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction is critical to the success of treatment.

The doctors at the Coastal Jersey Eye Center highly recommend visiting your eye care provider if you’re experiencing these problems.

February 1, 2018

Are You Seeing Red?

Bloodshot eyes: they’re unpleasant to look at and even more irksome to suffer through.

What causes this sudden change in color – and the occasional itchy or watery sensation – are actually the tiny blood vessels under the eye’s surface, which get dilated or inflamed by external irritation.

While not harmful, bloodshot eyes are an irritating experience for many. Luckily, most home or over-the-counter treatments work well at treating the irritation. But what about those cases where home or pharmacy remedies just won’t do? What happens if the redness or discomfort outlasts the home treatment?

That’s where the advice of a dedicated eye care professional can help. Only a proper licensed eye doctor can provide medical diagnosis and prescription medication to combat a more severe case of red eyes.

To find out if you need to seek out the help of an Ophthalmologist, consider these points:

  • You have bloodshot eyes and are seeping with encrusted mucous. (In this case, an infection may be present.)
  • You are experiencing pain or tenderness in or around the eyes.
  • You have developed an unusual sensitivity to light.
  • You have a fever or overall sickness.
  • You or your loved ones have been exposed to pink eye (conjunctivitis.)

Next time you have bloodshot eyes, take a moment to consider whether the symptoms are more severe than usual. While many physicians can diagnose eye infections, only your Ophthalmologist has the capability for a more detailed evaluation.

January 2, 2018