Getting Older and Moments that Matter

Shutterstock-BlendImagesGetting older can be enjoyable and relaxing. You may find yourself with more time to simply enjoy life. Whether it is a family celebration, a long awaited trip overseas or just dinner with friends, these are the moments that can truly matter to you. But getting older has its share of challenges, too. For instance, as you get older, even if you feel healthy, you are at greater risk for certain medical conditions.
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One condition you have a greater chance of developing as you get older is shingles, the common name for herpes zoster – a painful, red, blistering rash, that can last up to 30 days. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever had chickenpox – and 98 percent of U.S. adults have – you’re at risk for shingles, because the virus that causes chickenpox never leaves the body. As you age, your risk for shingles increases due to the normal age-related decline in the immune system that makes it easier for the shingles virus to break through the body’s defenses.

“People with shingles have described the pain as stabbing, shooting, burning, throbbing and itchy,” says Dr. Adriana Perez, PhD, ANP-BC, FAAN, assistant professor and Southwest Borderlands scholar at Arizona State University and co-director at the Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. “The first symptoms of shingles are often felt, but may not be seen, and may initially include itching, tingling or burning in a specific area on one side of the face or body. Soon after, a rash of blisters appear and sharp pain emerges on the same part of the skin where the initial symptoms were felt.”

Shutterstock-Monkey-Business-ImagesShingles most commonly appears on a single side of the torso, but it can appear anywhere on the body – even the face. For most people, after the shingles rash heals, the pain and itch subside, and the blisters heal, but in some cases, even after the rash heals, there can be permanent scarring.

The CDC estimates there are approximately 1 million cases of shingles each year and that one in three people will get shingles during their lifetime. In some cases, shingles can cause complications like postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is long-term nerve pain that can last for months, even years after the blisters heal and the rash disappears.

“There’s no way to predict if or when someone will get shingles, or how severe the case could be, so speaking with a health care professional to understand your personal risk is important,” says Dr. Perez.

When you’re not busy enjoying the moments that matter to you, you can learn more by talking with your doctor or pharmacist about shingles and by visiting ShinglesInfo.com.

This article is provided by Merck.
Photos: (From top) Shutterstock-BlendImages; Shutterstock-Auremar; Shutterstock-Monkey-Business-Images

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