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Shingles, The Vaccine and the Elderly

What is Shingles?

You have likely heard a lot about shingles over the past few years. Shingles is a viral infection that causes a very painful rash. It can manifest anywhere on your body, although the torso and trunk of the body are where the rash and blisters most often appear.

Shingles is causes by the same virus that causes chickenpox. This means if you have had chickenpox, that same virus will lay dormant in the nerve tissue around your brain and spinal cord. It can reactivate as shingles many years later, although some people may never experience it.

In addition to the painful rash and blisters, signs of shingles may also include fatigue, headaches, fever and sensitivity to touch or light. The pain can be very intense, and depending on where it appears on the body, many people have reported thinking they were having heart, lunch or kidney problems.

Any signs of shingles on the face, especially near the eyes should be immediately reported to your doctor. Permanent eye damage can occur if the infection gets into your eyes.

Vaccine for Shingles

The good news is there is a vaccine for shingles. The Food and Drug Administration is approved for adults over the age of 50, although the Centers for Disease Control recommend waiting until the age of 60.

The vaccine targets the prevention and related complications of shingles and is for both people who have and not had the shingles virus. The vaccine is a two-part dose, usually two-six months in between the injections. The vaccine is good for five years.

All residents admitted to a Heritage Health skilled nursing facility have the opportunity to receive the shingles vaccine. The cost of the vaccine may be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or insurance. The social services coordinator at your local Heritage Health can answer any questions you have about this.

Complications for the Elderly

An outbreak of shingles typically lasts about four weeks. A persistent outbreak of shingles can occur, especially in persons with weakened immune systems due to other medical conditions (cancer, organ transplant or other chronic conditions). This can last months or even years. The persistent pain, even after the rash has disappeared, is the most common symptom for those over age 60. An elderly person's quality of life can be severely affected due to this debilitating and ongoing pain.

Research has shown that elderly persons who develop shingles have an increased chance for a heart attack or stroke. For persons over the age of 60, the natural aging process and the weakening of the immune system can increase the risk of these complications. A younger person (in their 30s or 40s) may not experience the severe symptoms that an older person does.

If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing shingles, talk to your healthcare provider immediately so a course of treatment or initiation of the vaccine can begin.

Learn more about Heritage Health, our locations and our services by visiting our website:

What is Respiratory Therapy?
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

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Heritage Operations Group is proud to provide the senior population in Illinois with rehabilitative therapy services, skilled nursing care, specialized Alzheimer’s and dementia care, assisted and supportive living, independent living and pharmacy services.


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