Firsthand—experiences with aging

Shingles, as you may know, is a malady of aging, rarely fatal but very painful for weeks on end. Also, it can reoccur. All those who have had childhood chickenpox carry the dormant virus that can be reactivated, at age 50 and beyond, by mechanisms not well understood. Shingles can occur anywhere on the body, head to foot, and when on one’s face can cause vision loss. Almost one out of three people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are two vaccines that can prevent shingles. I knew that but put off taking action, though advised by my doc to do so.

My personal trip into shingles-land started with a red rash that did not hurt but was spreading. I decided to see my doc for medication and learned that my “rash” was actually shingles. Over the next days the rash spread, became quite painful, and super sensitive to anything that touched it. More trouble: chills, fatigue, and expected duration of 2–4 weeks (likely longer if complicated by cancer treatment or a weakened immune system.) The medication prescribed helped a lot but was accompanied by side effects to deal with.

A final word: if you had childhood chickenpox or do not remember, GO SOON to your primary care doc and get vaccinated. For further study, I found a very helpful article in the January 2016 Mayo Clinic Health

The more you know, the better, in my humble opinion.

—Earl Nolting

Editor’s note: The newer, two-dose Shingrix vaccine is currently out of stock throughout the Twin Cities metro area. The CDC recommends Shingrix for all adults age 50 and older, even those who have had shingles or received the single-dose, Zotavax vaccine, in use since 2006. To monitor availability of the Shingrix vaccine, go to and click on the Vaccine Locator tab at the top of the homepage. — Updated November 5, 2018

This is the first in a new, occasional series of articles. If you would like to share a firsthand experience related to health and aging, please submit a brief essay to Ron Anderson, interim chair, UMRA Cares Committee, at [email protected].