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Shingles – I Have it, But You Don’t Have To.

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.

shingles, shingles vaccine, symptoms of shingles, pain from shingles, shingles prevention

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
  • Itching

Some people also experience:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue

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
  • Newborns
  • 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.


Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, Empty House Full Mind, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on Sharon writes for the Huffington Post and Purple Clover. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

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Theresa Wiza

Tuesday 6th of October 2015

My brother-in-law got Shingles in a very odd spot – on his forehead above his eye and was sick for several weeks. When my father got it, he was already in his 70s, and his health declined rapidly due to the severity of his illness.. He died this year at the age of 83. I'm glad you're so young and have a mild case. Wishing you well!


Tuesday 6th of October 2015

SO sorry to hear this. Shingles is terrible. I know from drug rep days that the makers of the vaccine want insurance to pay at age 50 not 60 because of course the costs for insurance companies would be less in the long run but it takes years to accumulate the data to come to that conclusions.

The vaccine is expensive and it does not have a long shelf life which means small doctor offices don't even stock it . Walgreens, Costco and Rite Aid will have it if a doctor calls it in as a prescription for you. What this all means is that it is not as easy as just getting a flu shot.

Cheryl Nicholl

Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Oh noooooo. I was just thinking about this yesterday, but today I'll do something about it. I'm off to the clinic! Get well soon! Xxxooo

Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Wow Sharon. I'm so sorry to hear this. Wishing you a very speedy recovery. Thank you for such an important post. I'm running out to get my vaccine!

Stella Chiu

Tuesday 6th of October 2015

Hi, Sharon

I don't have shingles yet, I will seriously consider to get the vaccination because of your report. I don't want to experience the pain


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