As I write this post, I am lying in bed, as I’ve been doing for most of the past 5 days. I am in pain and I am exhausted. I have Shingles.
Symptoms of Shingles:
- Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
- Sensitivity to touch
- A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Some people also experience:
- Sensitivity to light
A week ago I noticed a patch of red with little bumps on my hip. It didn’t itch, but the area around it hurt – and it hurt a lot. I figured it was spider bites, which I’ve had before and which hurt rather than itched.
Most commonly, the shingles rash develops as a stripe of blisters that wraps around either the left or right side of your torso. Sometimes the shingles rash occurs around one eye or on one side of the neck or face.
After 3 days of increasing pain, I went to the doctor, who immediately diagnosed me with Shingles. I was relieved to know what it was but once I began to understand what Shingles involves, I grew concerned. I was prescribed an anti-viral (Valtrex), a medication to reduce nerve pain (Neurontin) and painkillers (Norco).
Contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles, but especially in the following situations:
- The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
- You’re 70 or older, because age significantly increases your risk of complications.
- You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, medications or chronic illness).
- The rash is widespread and painful.
I realized that I had been more tired than usual for the past week or so, and I had been having far worse than usual headaches, which I had attributed to perimenopause but which I now believe were symptoms of the onset of Shingles. Shingles often is brought on by stress, which can weaken the immune system. Shingles comes from the chickenpox virus and travels through the spinal cord to affect the nervous system.
A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. This usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles.
Chickenpox can be dangerous for some groups of people. Until your shingles blisters scab over, you are contagious and should avoid physical contact with:
- Anyone who has a weak immune system
- Pregnant women
I am not sure how long I will have Shingles – most people have it for 2-4 weeks. My rash is small but the pain has grown to the entire right side of my torso, including my back and tummy. Some people get terrible rashes and a lot of itching, while others have minimal symptoms. I am grateful that my experience seems to be on the less severe side. Nevertheless it has kept me from doing much of anything due to the pain and fatigue.
I should have gotten a Shingles vaccine, but my doctor never suggested it and I never gave Shingles a second thought.
If you are 50 or over and haven’t gotten a vaccine, do it as soon as you can.
All bolded text courtesy of The Mayo Clinic.