Shingles? Should We Worry?

I remember when I first overheard a couple of guys talking about shingles. Of course once I got beyond the fact that they weren’t talking about shingles for your house, then my reaction was to think that they must be talking about some old person disease or condition that couldn’t possibly be relevant to me. You know… like gout.

What is shingles anyway? And, should we be concerned about it as we get older?

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Shingles is a viral infection that is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you’ve had chickenpox before (and most older adults have because they hadn’t yet started widespread vaccinating for it), the virus may still remain, dormant in your nerve tissues and could reemerge as shingles. Symptoms include:

  • Pain, burning, or tingling
  • Sensitive to the touch
  • A red rash that appears a couple of days after the pain (oddly, it’s usually on one side of the body)
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over (you are contagious until these crust over)
  • Itching
  • Headaches
  • Possible fever

Now, not everyone that has had chickenpox will get shingles, although some speculate that 50% of those over 80 years old will get them. To date, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive reason for this reemergence. One thought is that it can be caused by a compromised immune system, which can happen as we age, (see, we are more likely to get it when we’re older), or with certain diseases, or medications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should see a doctor if you suspect you have shingles and especially when:

  • The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
  • You’re 60 or older, because 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.

So, all that said… not fun. There are vaccines for it, though. Two different kinds, in fact. While these vaccines have been found to be consistently safe (minor possible side effects), they also don’t guarantee that you won’t get shingles.

Should we worry about shingles? No, but if it sets your mind at ease, a vaccine is an option. Otherwise, just stay as strong and healthy as you can.

Older Americans Month?

I was just tracking down some information for a later article when I happened on to this. May is Older Americans Month (OAM), and, as I start to consider myself “older”, I had to find out what this is all about. It seems that the Administration for Community Living (ACL) has been leading the charge in celebrating OAM. ACL also created the theme for 2017. The theme is “Age Out Loud”, sort of a “Loud and Proud” for the aging adult. Frankly the theme could easily have been “Age Out Loud and Proud” because the point is to give the aging population the recognition that they (well… we) deserve.   Logos2

The older adult population continues to grow and with that, their desire to stay healthy, fit, active, and, as OAM states, “live their lives with boldness, confidence, and passion while serving as an inspiration to people of all ages.” In other words, to continue to kick butt and take names. I’m certainly all for that.

They have some fun ideas for things that you can do in your own community to celebrate Aging Out Loud and have links to some great resources from other organizations for the aging adult. See resources.

Age Out Loud is also meant to keep older adults engaged in the issues going on around us. Getting out and being heard on issues from city planning to healthcare. No retreating from the world here. Always active, always moving forward. #AgeOutLoud