An Illness Called Shingles

OR The Best Kept Secret

FM was diagnosed with Shingles in his face, ear and head three and a half weeks ago. He has been hit hard and the pain has been nothing short of crippling. Almost a month into it, there is still no end in sight. By that I mean that he has been laid out flat, unable to leave the house and sometimes unable to get out of bed because of pain. A month is a long time.

The funny thing is that, when you mention Shingles, everyone seems to knowingly nod their heads, saying that they have had it or knew someone who had it. But neither of us had any idea about the severity of this sickness or its commonality.

If you have had Chicken Pox or the Chicken Pox vaccine, you are a candidate for Shingles. One in three people will develop Shingles. The Chicken Pox virus remains dormant in your body’s nerves for your whole life and can become active when your immune system is taxed or run down. Usually one nerve is effected, causing skin blisters and pain for the entire length of that nerve fiber. Many people experience pain in their torso or across their abdomen. FM’s is in a nerve through the head and jaw.

FM's  Shingles are effecting the entire length of his facial nerve on the left side of his head.

FM’s Shingles are effecting the entire length of his facial nerve on the left side of his head.

The Shingles name supposedly comes from the scabby blisters as they dry up but the real illness is the pain that the nerves can cause. It isn’t contagious among those who have had Chicken Pox but, while the blisters are weeping, it can cause Chicken Pox in someone who hasn’t been exposed before.

FM had only a brief stint with blisters but his pain symptoms have fluctuated daily and sometimes hourly. He has managed to go to work about four times over the past month but he usually comes home exhausted and needs to rest throughout the next day. We have just learned that Shingles symptoms usually last about 12 weeks (3 months!) but the worst part – the part where you are completely indisposed – lasts around four weeks.  Unfortunately there is little you can do about Shingles. You have to let it run its course and simple manage the pain through prescription drugs – lots of drugs.

For such a severe illness, I find it surprising that people keep so quiet about it. If a third of the population develops Shingles and is off work for such extended periods of time, you would think that more would be known about it. But I suppose that those who have it and survive its rigors never want to speak of it again. And who can blame them?

5 thoughts on “An Illness Called Shingles

  1. Your emails are not arriving legible it is some numbers that are endless that’s it ????

    Sent from my iPad


  2. So sorry about the FM. I’m sure you are making it better for him as much as you can. Hope he’s not too cranky. I certainly would be if I couldn’t work or cook or ride my bike. Love to you both.

    1. It is not much fun but we’re making the best of the good days. He is fairly worried about being fit your upcoming bike trip but he’ll be better by then, we hope!

  3. Martha, I just found your blog. I wanted to let you know that I had shingles and while I didn’t have pain, I had horrible red blisters that gave me almost electric shock feelings constantly. I thought at first it was a rash for the sports bra I work while exercising. When I finally went to the doctor it was late to start the medications, but I did nonetheless. I recently had another terrible bout of shingles, because of stress. I am under a tremendous amount of stress. Although I exercise to relieve the stress, nonetheless, I am plauged by the shingles yet again. I hope your FM has fully recovered by now and has not had another bout of this dreaded virus. I must wait until November to receive the Shingrex Vaccine now that I’ve had another outbreak. Best to you both. N

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