DEAR DR. ROACH: You have written many times about chickenpox, shingles and the shingles vaccine. My question concerns the age at which one should get the vaccine. Most doctors and other sources recommend 60 and above; however, I am concerned about more and more younger people getting shingles, in their 50s and, in one instance, a woman in her 30s. Are these isolated cases? I am a 48-year-old female, and I did have chickenpox as a child. My husband’s insurance will pay for the vaccine at 50, and I intend to get it then. What are your thoughts? — L.A.B.
ANSWER: The vaccine is indicated by the Food and Drug Administration for those ages 50 and up, but advisory groups have recommended the vaccine to people over age 60, since the complication of postherpetic neuralgia is more likely, lasts longer and can be more severe the older you get. It is reasonable to get the vaccine at 50 if you want, but it’s important to get it at age 60 or over if you haven’t already had it.
DEAR DR. ROACH: A 95-year-old does not get enough blood flow to her lungs because she has a leaky heart valve. She is chronically short of breath after a small amount of exertion. Her leg strength is low, and she has to use a walker to safely get around.
She lived with a smoker for a few decades, and he died decades ago, but she never smoked herself. Would supplemental oxygen help, by enriching the air in her lungs, thus allowing blood to get more oxygen from the lungs?
ANSWER: Supplemental oxygen can improve symptoms and make people live longer in a few specific instances. The most prevalent is probably people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) whose blood oxygen level is below 89 percent. Some other lung diseases also benefit from oxygen. In cases of poor blood flow due to heart reasons, including valvular disease, oxygen doesn’t help.
It’s possible that the 95-year-old you are writing about has some lung disease due to secondhand-smoke exposure. It is easy now for doctors to check oxygen levels, and that would indicate whether she would benefit.
Readers: COPD typically causes shortness of breath, especially with activity. The booklet on COPD explains this progressive disease in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 601W, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. ©2016 North America Synd.