Let’s Talk: what problems do you avoid with your GP? 24

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As much as you might trust your doctor, there are some subjects that simply don’t come up easily or naturally.

For many of us, it’s hard to justify bothering them over what could be nothing.

Sometimes it can be a matter of pride – especially when it comes to sensitive subjects such as mental health or incontinence.

Sometimes it’s a simple human instinct that “it won’t happen to me” – especially when it comes to age-related concerns.

But sometimes, perhaps most worryingly, we simply don’t fully understand there’s a risk at all. A new survey has revealed one vital topic that rarely comes up in conversation: shingles.

According to a recent Galaxy Research study, almost 80 per cent of older Australians personally know someone who has experienced shingles – something which becomes more likely with age – yet only 4 per cent felt they were at high risk themselves.1

In reality, one in two people will have suffered from shingles by the age of 85.2

Have you considered or discussed your risk of shingles? What other subjects do you avoid discussing with your GP?


Concerningly, the study revealed that only one in four older Australians have ever had a conversation about shingles with their doctor.1 In terms of topics likely to be discussed with friends and family, this goes down to 11% – putting shingles far beneath topics like mental health (31%), hearing loss (63%) and memory loss (66%).1

Yet absolutely everybody who has suffered from chickenpox is at risk of shingles. This disease appears when the same virus that caused chickenpox reactivates later in life, causing painful rashes or blisters on one side of the body.3,4

For some, this can resolve itself in weeks.4 For others, it can trigger debilitating, extremely painful nerve damage, potentially affecting quality of life for months or years.3,4

If treated within 72 hours, antiviral therapy can reduce shingles’ impact on your life, potentially making the ordeal shorter and less severe.4

But with 58 per cent of those surveyed saying they tend to delay a visit to the doctor,1 all too many older Australians will miss this vital time window – while the nerve damage has already started to occur before the rash even appears.4

Next time you see your GP, ask about your risk of shingles. Getting the facts today can make all the difference tomorrow.

For more information, please visit www.shingles.com.au or talk to your doctor.


This Let’s Talk conversation piece is sponsored by Seqirus (a CSL company) in support of the “Don’t Shhh Shingles” public health education campaign. It was written as we feel it delivers valuable insights into a subject important to the Starts at 60 community.


  1. Galaxy research. 2015. Shingles study.
  2. 2008. The Australian Immunisation Handbook 9th Edition. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/Handbook-home [Last accessed: 18 September 2012]
  3. Stein, A.N., Britt, H., Harrison, C.,Conway, L.E., Cunningham, A., MacIntyre,C.R. 2009. “Herpes zoster burden of illness and health care resource utilization in the Australian population aged 50 years and over”, Vaccine. Vol 27, pp. 520-529.
  4. Harpaz R et al. 2008. Prevention of Herpes Zoster Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMRW; 57 (RR-5):1-30.


ABN 66 120 398 067
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®Seqirus is a registered trademark of CSL Ltd.
Date of preparation: December 2015
DC: AUS/ZOST/1115/0088

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Why, oh why, if it’s an article about shingles (or constipation for that matter) can’t it be put into the leading sentence? Don’t care what name you give to this style of so-called reporting, but it leaves me cold and annoyed with the time wasted just finding out this is something more I do not want/need to read.

  2. These days if I went to the doctor about every ache, pain, skin lesion……I may as well take up residence at the medical clinic!! Twelve months later I’m now dealing with breast cancer in the other breast and I am so ‘over’ my health issues. Having shingles, which is an extremely painful condition, pales in significance.

    2 REPLY
    • I hope things improve for you. But to be honest I think shingles is something you should discuss with your doctor. It normally strikes when a person is down. It’s the last thing you’d need. Take care.

  3. I live in country NSW and finding a doctor who speaks English fluently and in an easy to understand manner is very rare. My trips to the doctor are few and far between and when I do go, it’s just a quick “in and out” consultation. Those of you who have a doctor who makes you feel comfortable enough to sit down with, and have a deep and meaningful conversation about your ongoing health matters, are very lucky.

    8 REPLY
    • Wendy you need to insist with the receprionist that you need longer than five minutes and also explain ypur communication problem. A wise African doctor once told me to always insist the doctor take time to listen to you and if you can’t understand them to tell them.

    • I am lucky i have a wonderful dr.in Frankston. 30 min. Consult s,she never hurries ,dont go often ,she is 40 min. Drive away…

    • Goodness gracious … not all our doctors from overseas are difficult to understand .. surely u can go to another doctor you can understand.

    • Suzanne Herbert I live near a small country town and use the doctors who practice from there. It looks like I might have to travel further afield (58kms away) to find someone I can relate to and understand. Thanks for your advice.

    • Marjorie Robertson thanks, good advice. I will definitely ask him to speak clearer. Every time I go with hubby, and after we have left, my husband says, “can you now explain what that doc just said?”

    • Wendy O’Brien thats why i drive 40 mins, the dr in the town close to me all speak to quickly and i cant understand them…

    • Suzanne Herbert living rural it’s not always possible to find a Dr you are comfortable with…let alone understanding them.

  4. I had shingles while recovering from a hip operation. I didnt make the time frame as i thought i was getting a sty for the first three days. I have never felt such pain. It has left me with permanent soreness over one eye and in one spot on my head. I dont envy anyone who gets shingles, especially in your head as it can go to your brain quite quickly so yes, it is something you should discuss with your doctor. These days for a sixty something there can be a lot of stress and this is lnown to cause shingles.

  5. If it’s a great concern, why don’t doctors raise the issue with us, they are quick to talk about other health issues, os it that there is nothing that can be done to prevent it?

    1 REPLY
    • I agree they are all to quick to tell you you are overweight, but i never knew shingles was so widely spread! My Mother had it and it was very painful for her.

  6. Shingles being the latest “ailment” to avoid as is being constantly drummed into us – makes us all duly aware of our ability to contract it and to take the necessary steps to immunise ourselves against it…..But – and isn’t there always a damn “but” – not all of us can afford the $250 for the injection. Thus, whilst desperately hoping I don’t succumb to this scourge, I’m simply unable to afford the cost of lessening the likelihood of contracting it.

  7. It is very important to find the right doctor, if not happy change to another one, it took me 3 doctors and finally I found the perfect doctor who has time for me, and makes me feel comfortable.

  8. As a 60v year old never go much as you only go to find out what is wrong with you, that I am not interested in

  9. Shingles seems to follow trauma + so speak to Dr (plural) about the possibility because it so often comes hand in hand with cancer. The Dr’s aren’t the ones going thru it so don’t allow them to “brush it off”. It’s a horrible thing .. like cancer

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