With so much press surrounding the COVID-19 vaccinations, it’s all too easy to lose focus on the other important vaccinations for older adults. But there’s one specifically that deserves some time in the public eye: the shingles vaccine.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. If a person has had chickenpox, they are in danger of developing shingles in the future. This is because the virus remains dormant in nerve tissue around the brain and spinal cord for years before potentially reactivating.
While not life-threatening, shingles can be extremely painful and trigger numerous other complicated effects, such as:
- A red, blistering rash (commonly wrapping around one region of the torso)
- Numbness, sensitivity, burning, tingling, or itching
- Light sensitivity
- And more
Additionally, long-term side effects can include skin infections, eye infections (that may result in vision loss), stability or hearing issues, facial paralysis, encephalitis, and others.
Who Is at an Increased Risk for Shingles?
There are a variety of risk factors, most commonly age. Shingles is most widespread in individuals 50 and over, with the risk increasing as they age. In addition, people who meet the following criteria are at an increased risk for shingles:
- Having a compromised immune system due to a disease such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or other condition
- Undergoing treatment that impacts the immune system, including chemo or radiation
- Taking steroids or drugs that protect against a transplanted organ from being rejected
Is Shingles Avoidable?
Thankfully, a highly effective vaccine is accessible and advised for people age 50 and older, and individuals age 19 and older with a compromised immune system. The CDC suggests the Shingrix vaccine, a 2-dose injection that is more than 90% effective in seniors.
Complications from Shingrix are minimal – much more tolerable than the effects of shingles itself. The most common symptoms include mild or moderate tenderness in the arm, redness, and inflammation at the injection site. Some other known effects include nausea, fatigue, muscle pain, shivering, stomach pain, or fever. The issues usually go away within 2-3 days, and may be eased with over-the-counter remedies or as directed by the doctor.
What Do I Do if I Already Have Shingles?
The doctor should always be consulted in the event that you think that you or someone you love has shingles, but especially if any of the following apply:
- The rash is anywhere around the eyes
- The rash is widespread and painful
- You (or your loved one) are age 60 or older
- You (or your loved one) have a jeopardized immune system
How Aging Care Can Help
Morning Glory Home Care, a dedicated provider of home care and dementia care in Belleville, IL and nearby areas, is on hand to aid anyone with shingles or those interested in steering clear of the condition through:
- Transportation and accompaniment to medical visits and to receive the vaccine
- Monitoring for changes in condition so they can be reported and attended to as soon as possible
- Errand-running, including picking up prescriptions and groceries
- Cooking healthy meals and ensuring adequate hydration
- And even more