In June 2022, Achim L. (55) fell ill with shingles. In the video interview, he talks about the complications he experienced during the course of the disease, the effects on his professional and private life and what he would do differently today.
His mother had contracted shingles two years earlier, but Achim had not expected that it would happen to him himself. 2022 is an extraordinarily demanding year for him: a diagnosis in his family situation hit him hard, and there are also strenuous weeks at work. All of this certainly favored the development of shingles in June last year, says Achim today. When the first symptoms appear, he immediately goes to his family doctor. He diagnosed shingles – not surprising for Achim. He is already familiar with itching on various parts of the body, pustules and burning sensations on the skin from his mother’s course of the disease. However, what unexpectedly hits him some time later and will weigh heavily on him for the next few months is the pain that takes possession of his body.
His family doctor prescribes a cream and tablets and after about four weeks the itching, blisters and burning are gone. The pain stays. Especially with certain movements, such as tying your shoes or taking folders out of your office cupboard, the nerve pain shoots up in the side abdominal area. He continues to go to work and tries to avoid bending or reaching movements whenever possible. When will it finally stop? Does this ever stop? He asks himself these questions countless times a day. At some point it hits him because of the intensity and duration of the physical complaints on his psyche. At the weekends he is exhausted and needs to rest instead of spending his free time in nature and with friends as usual. The shingles disease finally has a restrictive effect on his social contacts and his partnership, he feels isolated.
In order to break this process, Achim decides at some point to take a long vacation. He is able to relax and is beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. An adapted lifestyle half a year after the onset of shingles finally leads to the longed-for health success. Today his everyday life is back to normal, but he still remembers the unpleasant experiences of the past year.
“I never thought that I could get shingles myself and would advise everyone to find out about possible protective measures against shingles from a doctor,” he concludes in the video.
Similar to Achim, many people underestimate their personal risk of shingles. One in three people will contract the viral disease in the course of their lives.1 This does not happen through infection, but through reactivation of the chickenpox pathogen varicella zoster. More than 95% of people over 60 carry the pathogen after chickenpox – mostly in childhood.2 Due to an age-related weakening immune system, people over the age of 60 are particularly at risk of developing shingles.1 In up to 30% of Patients develop complications in the form of persistent nerve pain, a so-called post-herpetic neuralgia.3 The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) recommends vaccination against shingles for all people over the age of 60.4 Vaccination from the age of 50 is recommended for people with an underlying disease .
1 Hillebrand et. al., Journal of Infection 2015; Vol 70:178-186.
2 Wutzler et al. 2001; Vaccine 20: 121-124.
3 Harpaz R et al. MMWR Recomm Rep 2008; 57: 1-40.
4 EpiBull 18/2020.
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