She’s been devotedly caring for husband Bert as battles pneumonia, but Patti Newton has now revealed that she fought her own serious health battle.
The 72-year-old told the Daily Mail that she suffered shingles in her 40s that had laid her low for an entire year.
“Mine was like a big poker going through my back and it was so so painful,” she told the news site.
Newton was speaking out about the illness, which she said started with just a small rash, because she feared that many people in her age group now were suffering from shingles but not being treated.
“People in their 70s probably don’t go the GP often enough to ask about these sorts of things,” she said. “It can lead to stroke, it can lead to other major illnesses when you’re a senior.”
The government’s healthdirect.gov.au site explains that shingles is a painful rash caused by the same virus as chicken pox. The rash develops into itchy blisters that can appear on the face, chest, back, stomach or pelvis, usually on just one site of the body.
It’s more common on people aged 50-plus, as well as those that are stressed, have recently had an organ or bone-marrow transplant, or a condition that requires treatment that impacts the immune system, such as chemotherapy.
“If you have had chicken pox in the past, the virus stays in the nerve cells near the spine, but is not active. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again,” the site says. “You cannot catch shingles from someone who has shingles. But if you have not had chickenpox, you can catch it by being in direct contact with fluid on the blisters of someone who has shingles.”
The pain, which the Health Department describes as sometimes being “severe and prolonged” can feel like stinging or burning, and can last more than three months. If it does, the condition is known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). The older the patient, the greater the likelihood they will develop PHN, as Patti Newton says she did.
The National Shingles Vaccination Program is free to people aged 70, with a five-year catch-up program available to those aged 71-79. The program will run until October 31, 2021m with details available from GPs or vaccination providers.
Newton said she encouraged people in their 70s to ask their doctor about the prevention program.