04/28/2017 11:37 EDT | Updated 02/23/2018 08:25 EST

3 Things You Need To Know About Shingles

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Tablet with the diagnosis Shingles on the display

Canadians are busier than ever before, but with extracurriculars and busy work lives, we're seeing increased levels of stress. The problem is this tension can have an effect on your overall health, taking its toll on your body and immune system. In fact, experts now believe that some diseases are up to 90 per cent stress-related. One example I see all-too-often is shingles, which takes advantage of the weakened immune system to activate in the body.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and usually appears as a single stripe of blisters on the torso, the face, or other body area.

Shingles can be extremely painful and have dangerous complications. And it's much more common than most people think. In Canada alone there are an estimated 130,000 new cases of shingles every year and one third of Canadians will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Some of the complications surrounding shingles can include:

•Vision loss (if you develop shingles in and around the eyes)

•Inflammation of the brain, facial paralysis, even hearing or balance problems

•Bacterial skin infections

•Pain caused by shingles can last months, even years, and is so severely debilitating that it disrupts lives

Where does shingles come from?

Most of us have had chickenpox at one point in our lives, but what many people don't realize is this puts you at risk of developing shingles later in life. While we think chickenpox is a one-time illness, the virus will go on to live quietly on the nerves, and it can spring to life again later in life to cause shingles. In addition to stress, age is another important risk factor. Two-thirds of all shingles cases occur in people over the age of 50.

The signs of shingles usually only appear on a small section of your body. Some of these symptoms include pain, burning, sensitivity to touch, itching and blistering. However you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following situations:

•The pain and rash occur near an eye

•You're 70 or older (age significantly increases your risk of complications)

•You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system due to cancer, medications or chronic illness

•The rash is widespread and painful

What can you do to prevent, or manage shingles?

While there is no cure for shingles, treatment and prescribed medication can speed up the healing process and reduce your risk of complications.

The good news is shingles prevention is now easier and more convenient than ever before. Pharmacists in all provinces except Quebec can administer the shingles vaccine - this is the first year that pharmacists in Ontario are able to administer the shingles vaccine. A doctor's prescription may be required depending on your region

So if you've had chickenpox, are over 50, or feel you might be at risk, help protect yourself from the devastating effects of shingles. Talk to your local Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist today about getting vaccinated - it's your best defense!

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