More on shingles: Viewer discretion advised

The concept couldn’t be simpler: the best way to avoid illness is to prevent it.

To avoid getting the flu this winter, get a flu shot. And while you’re at it, get vaccinated for other diseases for which you’re at risk. Which—for those over 50 or 60—include shingles.

Several days ago, I wrote about the obstacles many people, including me, run into when they try to get a shingles shot. On January 12, an excellent post by Paula Span on the same subject was published in the “New York Times” blog New Old Age.

Perhaps, some people don’t know that the viruses from chickenpox suffered decades ago are still lurking beneath the skin. They don’t know that those viruses may become reactivated and cause an ugly and very painful rash. They don’t know that when shingles affects the eyes, it may threaten one’s eyesight.

Or maybe they know about shingles but don’t realize that there is now a vaccine that is even more effective than was originally thought.

I’m not a big believer in shocking or scaring people as a way to get them to do anything—even something that is clearly for their own good. So I thought long and hard about posting an image of a person with shingles. Finally I decided that—if doing that prompted anyone to seek protection from this debilitating disease—it was the right thing to do.

shingles-2

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As Paula Span says in her excellent post:

So help spread the word. Shingles is a mean disease, and the older the victim, the meaner it gets. Apart from the    pain of that postherpetic neuralgia, it can attack the eyes and permanently damage vision. And once you get an outbreak, you can get another. And another.

I’d welcome your comments or questions.

photo of couple by 42968944@N03

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Madeleine Kolb 01/13/2011, 8:48 pm

    Sue, That sounds so frustrating and anxiety-provoking. Your primary care physician should have told you that she was going to leave her practice and recommended a doctor who could help you with any questions until you found another primary care physician.

    I hope the remaining five months of your treatment goes by quickly and uneventfully.

  • Sue T 01/13/2011, 7:01 pm

    Thanks for all the shingles vaccine info, Madeleine.
    One of the contraindications for this live vaccine is a compromised immune system, so individuals on current chemotherapy aren’t going to get it. I had to go through quite a rigmarole to get my doctor to approve it, although I’m on an aromatase inhibitor (5 year treatment after mastectomy, only five months to go!), which is not chemotherapy and is not an immunosuppressant. Primary care physician insisted on my oncologist’s approval. After I gathered up all the (semi-contradictory) info on contraindications from the NIH, she gave it, but indicated I shouldn’t shedule the vaccine within 6 weeks before a visit to her office (since there are so many patients there on chemo). Anyway, by the time I got that approval, and got past the next oncology appointment, my primary physician had left her practice! Back to square one … no new primary yet. The pharmacy might approve but they shouldn’t, so I will wait til after my next 2 specialist visits. I can probably get one of them to write me a prescription for it, then there won’t be any question.
    I really can sympathize with your frustration at the first pharmacy, blue-ice container in hand. Ouch!