With so much press about the COVID-19 vaccines, it’s easy to lose focus on the other essential vaccinations for aging adults. But there is one in particular that is worthy of time in the public eye: the shingles vaccine.
What Is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection brought on by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If someone has had chickenpox, the risk for shingles increases in the future. This happens because the virus stays dormant in nerve tissue around the brain and spinal cord for decades before possibly reactivating.
Although not life-threatening, shingles can be quite painful and trigger numerous other troublesome effects, such as:
- A red, blistering rash (commonly covering one region of the torso)
- Numbness, sensitivity, burning, tingling, or itching
- Light sensitivity
- And more
Additionally, long-lasting effects may include skin infections, eye infections (that can result in vision loss), stability or hearing problems, facial paralysis, encephalitis, and much more.
Who Faces the Highest Risk for Shingles?
There are a number of risk factors, most commonly age. The illness is most prevalent in those age 50 and older, with the risk for shingles rising throughout aging. Additionally, individuals who meet the following conditions are also at an elevated risk for shingles:
- Immunocompromised due to an ailment such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or any other condition
- Going through treatment that affects the immune system, such as chemotherapy or radiation
- Taking steroids or drugs that protect against a transplanted organ from being rejected
Is Shingles Preventable?
The good news is that an effective vaccine is available and recommended for adults age 50 and older, and any person age 19 and older with a compromised immune system. The CDC recommends the Shingrix vaccine, a 2-dose injection that is greater than 90% effective in seniors.
Complications from Shingrix are minimal – significantly more tolerable compared to the effects of shingles itself. Typical symptoms include mild or moderate discomfort in the arm, redness, and inflammation at the injection site. Some other noted effects include nausea, fatigue, muscle pain, shivering, stomach pain, or fever. These side effects generally go away in about 2-3 days, and can be alleviated with over-the-counter remedies or as instructed by the physician.
What Do I Need to Do if I Currently Have Shingles?
Your physician should be consulted if you suspect that you or someone you love has shingles, but especially if any of the following apply:
- The rash is anywhere near the eyes
- The rash is widespread and painful
- You (or your loved one) are over the age of 60
- You (or your loved one) have a compromised immune system
How Aging Care Can Help
At-Home Care Company, a trusted provider of independent living home care in Ames, IA and the surrounding communities, can provide support to someone with shingles or those thinking about preventing the condition through:
- Transportation and accompaniment to doctors’ appointments and to get the vaccine
- Monitoring for changes in condition so they can be reported and addressed immediately
- Errand-running, such as picking up groceries and prescriptions
- Grooming and personal care assistance
- And much more