By John McElligott, MD
Some medical sources say a third of Americans will get shingles in our lifetime. Those are not odds I like. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 1 million cases of shingles – also known as zoster or herpes zoster – in the U.S. each year.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get it, and the risk of developing it increases as you get older. That varicella zoster virus stays in your body in a dormant state and can reactivate years later.
The CDC says about half of all cases occur among men and women 60 years old or older. People who develop shingles typically have only one episode in their lifetime. In rare cases, however, a person can have a second or even a third episode.
Should I get a shingles shot?
If you are older than 50, yes. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved a VZV vaccine (Zostavax) for use in people 60 and older who have had chickenpox. In March 2011, the FDA extended the approval for the shingles vaccine to include adults age 50 to 59 as well.
Researchers found that giving older adults the vaccine reduced the expected number of later cases of shingles by half. And in people who still got the disease despite immunization, the severity and complications of shingles were dramatically reduced.
The shingles vaccine is a preventive therapy and not a treatment for those who already have shingles or postherpetic neuralgia, which is a painful condition affecting nerve fibers and skin.
Note: Herpes zoster should not be confused with the virus that causes genital herpes.
What is “Trucker’s Leg”?
“Trucker’s Leg” includes several conditions, one of which is simple cramps. The sedentary conditions of trucking, sitting for long periods, can cause a buildup of lactic acid in the lower extremities. This causes cramping at night and sometimes during the day. Potassium deficiencies can cause cramps as well in truckers on fluid pills for medical problems.
My advice is a cold bath/shower for your lower extremities. This constricts the vessels and decreases the lactic acid. If you are taking fluid pills and no potassium replacement, eat one banana a day. You can buy bananas at most truck stops.
If there is pain or swelling on the inside of the thigh or calf, go see a doctor. Fatal deep vein thrombosis or blood clots start with these symptoms. If either of these symptoms are combined with new onset shortness of breath seek medical care ASAP. DVT/blood clots can move to the lungs and be fatal.
Can I get carpal tunnel syndrome driving a truck?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is also known as median neuritis. I have never diagnosed CTS in a trucker due to the occupation. Trucking is not a job that is classified as a repetitive motion job except on your buttocks from sitting, and that is considered repetitive non-motion.
In short, one would have to flex the wrist or extend the wrists while driving, which is not a posture that is used by most drivers. Most drivers keep wrists straight and in a natural position. If you don’t, I would advise you to start.
Most of the time, CTS in a trucker is due to obesity or diabetes. Both will cause a neuropathy due to compression of the median nerve.
I have been diagnosed with mild scoliosis. My doctor told me I did not need treatment, but I think a brace would surely help, don’t you think?
It’s really not a diagnosis, but more a description of an abnormal curving of the spine (your backbone). Everyone’s spine naturally curves a tiny bit, but people with scoliosis have spines that curve too much.
It could be congenital or neuromuscular, but most of the time the cause of scoliosis is unknown. Called idiopathic scoliosis, it is the most common type. Because you are no longer growing, it wouldn’t be effective to wear a brace. LL