Well, this is a blog post I never thought I'd write. After a week of putting up with what I thought was an annoying pinched nerve in my back, I finally went to the doctor only to find out I have something else.
This is my experience with SHINGLES.
Yes, shingles. That nasty virus that gave me chickenpox when I was a kid has decided to come back and haunt me this Halloween - only now it's dressed up as shingles.
I only say that because both chickenpox and shingles are the exact same virus, also known as varicella-zoster.
Many of us are first exposed to it when we're young. In fact, when I was little, moms would purposely take their children to a friend's house if they knew their kids had chickenpox, just to get it over with. The end result was this itchy, scratchy rash that made us miserable for a while, but once you had it, you were done.
That is - until it comes back when you're older - then we call it shingles. It's kind of like chickenpox this time around in that you get those annoyingly itchy bumps, but this time there's something new...
As in "Did you get the license plate number of the truck that just hit me?" kind of pain.
In fact, just an hour before I sat down to write this post, it was all I could do to turn on the computer. Fortunately, there are medications you can take that help ease that pain that I will describe in the details below.
So if you want to hear about my experience with shingles, read on.
My Experience With Shingles
I started feeling a little back pain. As much as my grandson pounces on my back, and as much as I sit here in this chair with my poor posture, it was bound to happen. So, didn't think much about it and went on about my day like normal.
More back pain, with an occasional twinge of chest pain. OH CRAP I thought! Just what I needed!
First a stroke, and now this? WTH?! But I had no other symptoms and otherwise felt fine. Blood pressure was ok so what the heck is going on?
Day 3 & 4:
The twinges of pain are off and on, and swap between the left side of my back and my left breast area. On a scale of 1 to 10, they are about a 3-4.
The twinges are turning into a constant dull achy pain, mostly in my low back. My wife did find a knot and tried to massage it out (ouch).
I started taking Ibuprofen to ease the pain and still thought I had just thrown my back out. Our electric heating pad seems to help a lot.
The dull, bruising pain in my back is now a constant 3-4 with twinges to a 6-7. The twinges seem to be random and all over my left side.
Sleeping is getting rough as I usually wake up at 1-2 am REALLY hurting.
I try to make a doctor's appointment (he also does back adjustments) but he is booked solid for the next 2 weeks. His son is also a doctor in the same office and HE is booked solid for the next week.
So I make an appointment with a chiropractor instead.
Again I am woken up to excruciating pain, and reach behind my back to apply a little pressure and discover a raised area that felt weird. Using the old 'holding a mirror to a mirror trick' I see a very red bumpy area on my back and show my wife.
She said, "I think you got shingles!"
So I cancel my chiropractor and get on the phone with my doctor's off-hours emergency number until I get a nurse practitioner to agree to see me. She confirmed it was indeed shingles.
I asked if I could spread it to my wife and she said if my wife has already had chickenpox or the shingles vaccine - then no. Still, I keep my rash covered at all times, just to be safe.
I slept great last night but this morning the pain came back full force once I actually got up. The rash does not appear any larger and has not spread. Ibuprofen helps with the pain and so does the Aspercreme.
My wife is at the store buying some Capsaicin creme (the oil that makes chile peppers hot) as many of you have said it works great for pain too.
I also read about a home remedy on a Reddit page this morning and tried that - I swallowed a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (in a little water) and that actually seemed to help too.
Here are some common questions I have been asked
Q: Did I get the Shingrex Vaccine?
A: No, I did not.
Q: Will I get the vaccine now?
A: Probably, after this is over. Dr. McDougall and his wife Mary even got it. Shingles hurt..... bad.
Q: Did the C-19 Vaccine cause this?
A: I don't know and really don't care. Even though it hurts like hell it's better than being on a hospital bed and ventilator. I will be getting my booster when it's time.
Q: Did stress cause this?
A: Again, I'm no expert. Maybe? I was more stressed last year than this one but who knows.
Q: Have I had Chickenpox?
A: Yes. This means I already had the varicella-zoster (chickenpox/shingles) virus. It's been dormant - until now.
Q: Am I contagious?
A: Yes and no. And this seems to be the point of disagreement.
- If you have already had Chickenpox or the associated vaccines......you already have the varicella-zoster virus in you, therefore, I cannot give it to you. You already have it.
- If you have NOT had Chickenpox or the associated vaccines, then yes - if you were around me I could possibly give you Chickenpox, but not shingles.
Q: What if I've never had chickenpox? Can I still get shingles?
A: No, you have to have had chickenpox first in order to get shingles
Q: Could I spread shingles to my wife?
A: No. She has already had chickenpox so therefore already has the virus.
If she had not, then yes, I could spread the virus to her and she would get Chickenpox, not shingles. She would now be at risk for getting shingles, but she would not get them from me.
You cannot pass shingles from one person to another.
"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." - Mayo Clinic
Q: Can you get shingles more than once?
A: Yes, multiple times
Q: If I get the shingles vaccine, can I still get shingles?
A: Yes. The shingles vaccine doesn't guarantee that you won't get shingles. But it will most likely reduce the course and severity of the disease and reduce your risk of postherpetic neuralgia.
Q: What is Postherpetic Neuralgia?
A: It's a possible complication of having shingles. It simply means the pain lasts a lot longer than the rash and can go on for months or even years. You could end up so sensitive to the touch that you have trouble even wearing clothes. This is why it's so important to get treated for shingles as soon as you can.
Q: Is Gabapentin bad?
A: Gabapentin is an Anticonvulsant and Nerve pain medication. It can treat seizures and pain caused by shingles. It does however have a long list of side effects - some of which are pretty concerning.
People have told me they had good results with it, others not so good. I am taking it as needed and being very cautious with it. Do whatever you feel is right for you.
Q: Am I taking Lysine? Does it help?
A: I have heard it does but no I am not taking it. I don't take supplements other than B12. I do however eat a lot of foods that have Lysine in them. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, hummus, beans, and avocados.
Q: How am I treating my Shingles?
- I am taking an Antiviral Drug called Acyclovir.
- I also use some topical ointments like Aspercreme (Lidocaine) and Capzasin for localized pain.
- I take Gabapentin as needed for nerve pain
- And otherwise just use Ibuprofen for general pain.
So that's what shingles are like. They are PAINFUL!
Even the slightest breeze can set it off. I am wearing loose-fitting clothes and that helps. The actual rash doesn't bother me, but the nerve path they attack - THAT is what hurts like hell.
But so far, I have managed with just the topical cremes and ibuprofen.
SHINGLES CAN ALSO BE VERY DANGEROUS!
If they appear on your face or near your eyes, they can cause blindness. I have read about people having them on their mouth, neck, arms, and even downstairs in the more sensitive areas. I cannot imagine. Having them on my back is bad enough.
For now - I am fine. No pain at all at the moment, but that can change very quickly.
I also want to say that I am by no means trying to persuade you to get the shingles vaccine. I am simply telling you my experience in case it helps. Not everyone has experienced shingles or knows what to expect.
Now you do.
That's it for now and thanks for all your well wishes. The outpouring of love and concern is just amazing. I really appreciate each and every one of you.
I'll let you know if anything changes.
I so appreciate your sharing. Sending this to a family member who has repeated bouts of shingles.
I went to an acupuncture dr when I learned I had shingles. Two treatments and it was gone!!!!
The first time I had shingles was the day before my first chemotherapy. The chemo (ACT) seemed to stop it immediately. The second time it was mild, on one side of my torso. That was approximately a decade ago. I had almost forgotten. But a friend had it Bad on his face and really suffered.
Thank you for this informative post.
Wishing you continued healing. I have known family members who had shingles and the pain they experienced was often unbearable. I’m glad you are on the mend.
I enjoy your blog and recipes.
Two years ago I got shinges...on my face! I went immediately to eye doctor to insure it didnt affect my eye...took same meds as you to lessen duration and pain...nasty virus!
Linnea J Priest MD
I have had shingles multiple times, starting when I was 10. I had chickenpox before then; the vaccine was not yet developed. The last bout I had was about 2 vesicles, but the pain tipped me off, I went to the doctor and he told me that it was the smallest eruption he had ever seen, but he gave me the acyclovir and so far, I have been lucky to not get the post-herpetic neuralgia.
I got the Shingrix vaccine when it was available in my area. I hope I don't get Shingles again, but since I am not dead yet, I could.
So sorry you are going through this. As someone with a kidney transplant, I was required to get every vaccine known to man in order to be complainant for transplant. The shingles vaccine was the worst, pretty rough side effects for three days, but I’m sure it’s worth it to avoid an actual case of shingles. Heal quickly!
I've never had shingles but when my father was in his late 80's or early 90's he had them on his private. he was in terrible pain. I hope your recovery is quick!
I am so sorry you are going through this. I have been lucky to escape this and I have had chicken pox as a child. My sister had it got the vaccine after and got shingles again later and said wasn't as bad. Hopefully your shingles will never return. I love your posts and prayers for a speedy recovery
Your experience is similar to mine. I wasn't so aware of the vaccine a few years ago when it happened. My doctor did say that even though I've had it now, I should still get the Shingrix, as I'm MORE likely to get it again. My one suggestion is that it might help to wear a tight-fitting t-shirt next to your skin, under your regular shirts. That way the looser clothes don't brush against the rash as much. It helped me!
Hope it's over soon...
So sorry to hear of your plight. I’ve had shingles as well, but mine presented mainly on the inside of my body around my waist and hips. Weird, I know. Something I believe helped to hasten the demise of my shingles were adding drops of Cinnamon Bark and Ravintsara essential oils to the creams I applied. Testing has yet to find a virus, bacteria or fungus that can survive in its presence. I share this in the hope it might hasten your healing. Best wishes, my friend!
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with shingles as I am older woman debating vaccine. Think I have decided to get vaccine. (Not due to your experience as painful as is) but mother had on face). I'll let you know that I am one of the walking wounded die to back compression fractures that decided yesterday was good day to give me kick in butt. Spent hours in local ER to get something for 10+ back pain. After shot and oral med managed to creep my way out after more meds subscried. Good luck and happy healing!??????
Glad you are healing up. I don't believe in vaccination, but I do believe in medical choice. My father-in-law got the shingles right after getting the shingles vaccine.
Chuck, I feel for you.. I had shingles in feb. Right side spine to center of chest. I spent a week to 10 thinking I had gallbladder issues. I could not eat anything other than applesauce. Then only a bit at now and then. Talked to doctor several times. They finally wanted to see me. I showed and got dressed. About 3 hour later I had such pain I had to get my bra off. Then I found those blisters. Right where the bra band was. Called the doctor back. He gave me the anti virus. It was 4 weeks later that I could actually be fully dressed. I was told by my doctor that I could be contagious as long as I had the watery blisters. Almost 9 months later I can still see where the blisters were. I can get the shingles vaccine this coming Feb. Doctor said I need to wait 12 months after having the shingles.
I have had several friends get the vaccine as they knew what I went through.. Hopefully there will be many more getting the vaccine after reading your story. Thank you for sharing.
I hope you feel better soon. Did your doctor recommend a CT scan at all in your case since the rash didn’t appear for several days after the pain started?
So sorry about your shingles. I tried your latest vegan chili. It was out of this world good. I liked the spicy profile. I made David Gabbe's Millet Cornbread and poured the chili over it. A fan favorite. Son was even willing to eat it a second night!
FYI: Shingrix is a 2 shot protocol taken 2-6 months apart. If you've had the Covid vaccine there is a month wait time before you can take a Shingrix shot. This applies also if you've had a Shingrix shot, you must wait at least a month before having a Covid shot.
I feel for you! I got shingles two years ago on a trip to Italy. Worst trip ever. On my face, into one ear and up onto my head. Italian doctor prescribed Acyclovir. The nerve involvement lingered for at least a year. Used gabapentin, which didn’t do much for me. I take lysine every day now in my smoothie. I’ve just gotten the second Shingrix vaccine and hope to never get shingles again.
Hope you recover soon!
Oy. Hope you recover soon. I've had Shingles twice. Once in college ( minimal pain) and once 45 years later! Upper back/ shoulder area. Terrible shooting pain in my head intermittently throughout the day. Felt like what an aneurysm might feel like. Stopped me in my tracks. Lasted for a few weeks at least. No drugs helped. Then a widowmaker heart attack took my mind off of it!
Not afraid to shout GET THE VACCINE!!! You don't want Shingles! And my case seemed relatively mild compared to others
Thank you so much for sharing. Praying for comfort and quick healing. Take care of yourself and rest!
Chuck - take good care. I had them many years ago on my back. Had the vaccine but get them back in the same place every summer. Seems the heat causes their return. I keep Acyclovir on hand all the time. My Dr told me it does not expire. Lidocaine patch really helps with pain, also.
Hoping you have a speedy recovery. Take care.
So sorry you’re having to deal with this. Thank you for trying to explain the pain and what to expect if we do get it! I did get the vaccine back in March. I wasn’t taking chances with all the other viruses we are had to deal with! Hope you feel better real soon.?
Sorry to hear you’ve got shingles. My poor brother gets them regularly. Any stress brings them on. He’s always got his medication on hand so he can begin the treatment as soon as he notices the signs.
He gets a band around his waist and the nerve pain runs into the groin and down his legs.
As you say, the earliest you start your medication the better.
Take care and feel better soon Chuck ❣️❣️
Thank you, Chuck. I wish you a speedy recovery and long term remission! Sounds just awful! Just before Covid, I did get my Shingrix series, and now I am so thankful!