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Shingles are a good thingPosted Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at 2:01 PM
Well, shingles are a good thing to have on your house but you really don't want them on your body. I have heard about Shingles all my life but until recently thought they were just a little "itchy" and no big deal. It turns out they are a very big deal!
If you have had chickenpox, and more than 90% of adults in America have, you are at risk for Shingles. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus can live, but remain inactive, in certain nerve roots within your body for many years. If it becomes active again, usually in later life, it can cause Shingles.
The first signs of Shingles are often felt and may not be seen. These can include: itching, tingling, burning. A few days later a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears (usually on one side of the body or face). The blisters may take 2 to 4 weeks to heal.
For most people, the pain from the Shingles rash lessens as it heals. After the rash heals, however, Shingles may lead to pain that lasts for months or even years in some people. This long-term nerve pain, called postherpetic neuralgia or PHN, occurs because the virus that causes Shingles may damage certain nerves. For many people with long-term nerve pain, even the touch of soft clothing against the skin can be painful.
Other serious problems that may result from Shingles include skin infection, muscle weakness, scarring and decrease of loss of vision or hearing.
The older you get the more you're at risk for Shingles. This is because your body can't defend itself against the virus that causes Shingles as well as it could when you were younger. Statistics show that about half of the nearly 1 million Shingles cases in the United States each year occur in people 60 and older. 1 out of 2 people who live to age 85 will have Shingles. The older you get the more you're at risk for long-term nerve pain.
There is a vaccine now for Shingles, it is effective more than 50% of the time and those cases where Shingles do occur are generally less painful. You should ask your doctor about the vaccine. If you have Medicare Prescription Drug coverage your plan should be responsible for the vaccine and the injection with you being responsible only for the co-pay. One word of warning...be sure and ask the provider if they are a participating provider of your Medicare Prescription Drug plan and will they bill the plan directly. If you have questions regarding this article please contact me at 573-335-3331 or 1-800-392-8771.
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Ruth Dockins is the Public Information Director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging and author of 'Age Spots,' a column/blog which is featured in several Southeast Missouri newspapers and is devoted to seniors and senior lifestyles.
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