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Shingles December 31, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Shngles.
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(Just before Christmas 2007, I was hit, slugged, blind-sided, you name it, with a very nasty virus, one that had been lurking for some sixty odd years, just waiting to wreak havoc with my health.  This is a letter I sent to anyone I knew of my generation in order that they might not have to suffer what I have with a virus that lived an underground life in my system for nearly six decades.)


Shingles Bar: A place where you can go to share with fellow sufferers over anti-viral cocktails your experience with rashes and pain.


Who can remember their childhood bout with chicken pox?  I have only the vague recollection of having had it, and my memory is mixed up with the measles and mumps.  But the virus that causes chicken pox hasn’t forgotten me.  It has hid itself somewhere in my nervous system all these years just waiting to jump out and give me a Christmas present.  Merry Christmas!


It’s called Herpes Zoster.  We generally refer to it as “shingles” rhymes with jingles … as in Jingle Bells.


I won’t go into excessive detail; you can look it up on Google.  It commonly attacks those over 60, and the attacks can be mild or severe, short or long termed.  The more common variety creates pain and a rash around the midsection.  I lucked into the more rare expression.  It attacked the left side of my face (and there is no doubt that the Radical Religious Right had its hand in here somewhere).


Several facial nerves become inflamed, which generate the breaking out of chicken pox like pustules and a not very friendly neuralgia.  I woke up on a Saturday morning with a headache and eye pain on the left side.  Carmen said she also noticed some “pimples” on the left side of my forehead.  As the weekend wore on the pain migrated into my inner ear and upper molars.


What a strange conflux of symptoms, I thought to myself.  On Sunday evening I went to the emergency at the public hospital (really a glorified clinic) in Playas where the MD on call took my blood pressure and suspected glaucoma because of the intense eye pain.  He suggested I see an ophthalmologist right away and perhaps also a neurologist.


On Monday morning we headed for Guayaquil and got an appointment with my ophthalmologist for the afternoon.  He ruled out glaucoma or any other eye involvement but suspected Herpes Zoster and sent me right away to see a dermatologist, who diagnosed it on the spot (no pun intended).


Herpes Zoster is not curable.  The lesions usually disappear without leaving a scar.  But the neuralgia – the pain – can last for days, weeks, months, or years (!!!).  Apparently the key to preventing long term effects is early treatment with anti-viral medication.  As uncomfortable as is the pain, the anxiety of now knowing how long it is going to last is the worst part.


The pain with which I continue to live in not unbearable, but it is quite debilitating. Picture having a head ache, eye pain, ear ache and tooth ache – all at the same time.  It has diminished over time, but very slowly as the dermatologist told me it would.  I am to rest for two weeks, stay out of sunlight, and not drive a car.  When I told the doctor I live in Playas and it is sunny all the time, what if I need to go out, he responded, “don’t worry, you won’t want to go out.”




I would not wish this on my worst enemy (with the one exception of anyone whose middle initial is “W.”).


I am sending this to those of you who are in the 60 year range because I understand a vaccination has been developed.  It is expensive, but according to my brother, it is worth while.  It will not prevent the outbreak of shingles, but considerably mitigate the effects.




And don’t worry about me, I am handling it OK.