r_grayjoy: (Default)
As everyone probably knows by now (due to the fact that I've bitched about it so much), I'm currently getting over SHINGLES (not just shingles, but SHINGLES, because capslock is required in order to express the full measure of its suckitude). It was an unbelievably horrible experience, and I want everyone to know about it and to do everything that can to avoid it. I'm declaring October to be International Shingles Awareness Month (even though I'm not getting this posted until November because that's how much shingles sucks), and I'm telling you ALL ABOUT IT.

WTF is Shingles?!

I imagine most of you already know WTF shingles is, but for anyone who doesn't, here's a basic explanation.

If you've ever had chicken pox, the itchy outbreak goes away sooner or later and you get better, but the virus (vericella zoster virus) remains in your body forever (dun dun duuuuun). It bundles up all nice and warm in your nerve roots and goes to sleep, and often it's never a problem again. Sometimes, though, something happens to wake it up -- an illness, an injury, or just increasing age; generally something that causes your immune system to dip. And when it wakes up all refreshed from its nice nap, it looks around and says, "O HAI GUIZE! I'm back! Didja miss me?! Let's get this party started! WOOOO!" And it proceeds to put the lampshade on its head and go on one hell of a bender inside your nerves and then vomits all over your skin.

Which is to say, you get an itchy, hurty, disgusting, blistering rash (almost always limited to one side of the body, most often on the back and chest, the hips/waistline, or -- if you're very unlucky -- the neck and head) plus excruciating nerve pain in the general vicinity of the rash. The rash is the visible aspect, of course, and it looks really gross, so that's what people tend to think of when they think of shingles (...not that I imagine people think of shingles often...), but it's the horrible PAIN that makes the whole experience one of the biggest Do Not Wants ever.

...Just trust me on that.

Oh, and that pain? If you're very unlucky, it can go on for weeks, months, or even YEARS after the shingles infection. Or you can go blind. Just sayin'.

Who Are the Unlukcy Bastards Who Get Shingles?

Besides me, that is?

Shingles tends to be thought of as an "old people thing." In the past, it's true that it was primarily people over 50 or 60 who got it. The immune system becomes less effective with age, which allows the already-present virus to reactivate more easily. Now, however, it's becoming more and more common for people in their 40s, 30s, and even 20s to get shingles. (In the last couple of weeks, I've already talked to two people who had it in their teens.)

The leading theory is that this has to do with the advent of the chicken pox vaccine. Since relatively few kids/young people are getting chicken pox these days, those of us who already had it aren't being reexposed to it as often, so we're not getting the regular "boost" to our immunity. Thus we become more susceptable to a shingles attack, and the virus doesn't have to wait until we're old and slow before it leaps out at us with the booze and lampshade while shouting, "SURPRISE!!"

Modern medicine, you have failed me and my entire generation!! ::shakes fist::

The bottom line of that is this: Anyone who's ever had chicken pox can get shingles, and you can get it at any age. It's still a high concern for older people, but more and more younger people are getting it now. A couple of studies have projected that, if you've had chicken pox and you live to the age of 85, there's at least a 50% chance you'll have had shingles at some point.

The Shingles Vaccine: Yes, Have Some!

Do I really have to say more than that? Really?

Yes, there is a shingles vaccine! Unfortunately, it's typically only recommended for/discussed with/ given to people over 60 or so. This is changing, though, and in many cases doctors will give it to younger individuals as an "off label" use.

The vaccine is thought to be about 50% effective in preventing shingles. However, in cases where shingles does still occur after one has had the vaccine, the severity and duration of the infection is considerably reduced. Given what I mentioned above about having a roughly 50% chance of getting shingles by the time you're 85 -- and given how absolutely horrid shingles can be -- I'd say the numbers make it well worth getting the vaccine.

Unfortunately, unless you have insurance that covers it (which it ususally only does if you're over 50 or 60), the vaccine is pretty expensive. Something in the realm of $200, from what I read. Nonetheless, you'll potentially lose a hell of a lot more than that if -- like me -- you end up having to take several weeks off work while you recover. Even if you don't work or can afford the loss of income, there's still the complete disruption of your life to consider.

Will You Get to the Point Already?!

Yes! The bottom line here is that shingles blows a whole field of goats and you Do Not Want it and you should get the vaccine if it's at all possible!!!

If you're considered "at risk" for shingles -- that is, if you've had chicken pox and you're over 50 or have a weakened immune system for any reason, GET THE VACCINE. If you're younger but have a lot of stress in your life and are the sort of person who tends to fall victim to illness when stressed, or if you're just prone to catching every little cold and flu and germ that comes along, talk to a doctor and find out if they'll give you the vaccine. Try a couple of doctors if you have to. Find some sources that talk about the increased incidence of younger people getting shinges and the probable causes (I'll help you with that!), print them out, and take them with you. JUST GET THE DAMN VACCINE.

Seriously, I don't want any of you guys to have to deal with what I just dealt with (and am still dealing with to a lesser degree). If you blow off my warning here and you end up with shingles, know that I WILL say "I told you so!!!" and call you an idiot a whole lot while wincing and cringing in sympathy. Don't make me have to call you an idiot and wince and cringe in sympathy, I'm begging you.
r_grayjoy: (Default)
Apparently Percocet gives me some seriously weird dreams.

Night before last I dreamed that Ari (my dog) made up a song about Pansy (the cat) and then wouldn't stop prancing around the apartment singing it.

It really loses something without the tune, but I can at least supply you with the lyrics:

Cute, cute, cute-the-cute,
Cute, cute, cute-the-cute,
Cute, cute, cute-the-cute,
Pansy is cute!

Mouse, mouse, mouse-the-mouse,
Mouse, mouse, mouse-the-mouse,
Mouse, mouse, mouse-the-mouse,
Pansy likes mouse!


Wash, rinse, repeat ad nauseum...


Yeah, hi, I still have SHINGLES.
r_grayjoy: (Default)
And now? I have shingles. SHINGLES!!!

There is a god, and s/he hates me.

FML.
r_grayjoy: (Default)
This all began last Monday when I needed to have blood drawn for some lab tests... )

This new and improved system. So much simpler and more efficient than the old one! /sarcasm

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