Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Since the chickenpox virus causes shingles, you cannot develop shingles unless you have had a previous infection of chickenpox (typically as a child). As we age, our ability to fight infection is weakened, which allows the dormant virus to activate an outbreak. An outbreak typically starts with a sensation of burning pain or tingling, along a horizontal line from your back to your front, followed by a rash of red blisters, which burst and crust over. Although the entire outbreak typically lasts less than a month, the pain can persist for a long time, which is called post herpetic neuralgia.
Although you typically cannot get shingles from someone else, your may get chickenpox with close contact with an infected person if you have never had chickenpox. However, the rash and pain that follow can be treated with medications. The rash can be treated with antiviral medications, such as acyclovir (if started within the first 3 days, which is why it is important to see your doctor quickly). The medication may speed recovery and reduce the chance that your pain will last. If your pain persists after the rash heals, called post herpetic neuralgia, your doctor may prescribe additional medications such a Lyrica® (pregabalin) or Neurontin® (gabapentin). Additional measures include: acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for pain, cool, moist washcloths on the rash, rest, and avoid irritating the rash with clothes or bed sheets. Things to call your doctor about include: worsening pain or fever, changes in your thinking or reasoning, blisters near the eye or pain in the eyes or blisters that have become more redden or drain yellowish fluid which may indicate infection.
Lastly, a preventive measure if your have never had chickenpox is available for people over 60 is a vaccine called Zostavax®, which may lessen or prevent the attack, but cannot reduce the shingles attack after it has started. Additionally, you can help prevent attacks by maintaining good general health, diet, rest, and reducing stress.
Michael Roach, MD- Geriatric Medicine
Don’t Be Afraid to Exercise
People of all ages and physical conditions benefit from exercise and physical activity. Exercise and physical activity are among the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Older adults that are reluctant to exercise may fear that exercise will be too strenuous, or that physical activity will harm them.
Physical activity can help you control your weight; improve conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and depression. Improving your fitness ability also helps you perform your daily activities. Exercise 3-5 times a week can significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease and loss of mobility.
Starting a fitness program may be one of the best things you can do to increase your physical activity. The key is to start slowly and build gradually as ability and strength improve. Most important is simply to start now.
Jamshid Maleki M.D.- General Practice