(NC) Maintain your good health as you get older by becoming informed about one of the most common illnesses affecting adults and seniors.
1. It’s more common than you think. Shingles, a painful, preventable disease, will afflict about one in three adults over the age of 50 over their lifetimes. If you’ve had chickenpox, you can get shingles. The virus stays in your body to resurface years, even decades later with new, painful symptoms. Baby boomers are especially at risk thanks to high rates of prior chickenpox infections.
2. It hits you where it hurts. An episode of shingles happens when the sleeping chickenpox virus floating in your body reactivates and enters one of the nerves supplying your skin. It often strikes on the belly but can affect the face or even around the eye. It inflames a single nerve in the area, spreading a searing band of pain down the nerve’s length. The pain can come with itching and irritation, and usually scabbing blisters that cause more pain when they rub against your clothing.
3. It’s more likely to affect you as you age. Anything that weakens your immune system can trigger shingles — most often another infection or stress, but especially aging. It’s possible to get shingles at any point after contracting chickenpox, but adults over 50 form the highest risk group for the disease. A bout of shingles becomes more and more likely with every passing year since your chickenpox infection.
4. It can come back. Most viruses hit once and never return. The chickenpox virus never actually leaves your body, so shingles can sometimes return for a second bout. In some rare cases, it can even return for a third time. The pain of an episode can linger on well after your blisters go away, sometimes for more than a month.
5. It’s easier to prevent than ever. The shingles vaccine can prevent your risk of a shingles outbreak, as well as repeat episodes. Ontario pharmacists can now administer vaccines for several diseases, including shingles. Once you get a prescription for a shingles vaccination from your doctor, you can get it filled and administered by a pharmacist in a single visit to a Rexall pharmacy. Shingles is as unpleasant as it is preventable. Protect yourself — it’s now as easy as popping into your local pharmacy.