Information about recurring shingles is elusive. I know I’ve been looking for more information for 25 years and have found only fleeting references to the condition.
It was a few years and several doctors before I was correctly diagnosed with shingles (Herpes Zoster) when I was 38 years old, and then I was met with skepticism when I mentioned I had already had several bouts of the lovely virus that lives in my nervous system and pounces at every opportunity.
The First Signs
The first sign I had was a small bump on my rear-outside upper thigh. I thought it was a spider bite. It was hot and itchy. At the time, I didn’t notice the headache, the numbness and/or tingling leg and overwhelming fatigue. I had so much stress in my life that it seemed normal to feel tired and achy all the time. Then the blisters formed around and on the “bite” and I thought it must be infected.* I treated it Campho-Phenique because that was my great grandmother’s cure all. (Campho-Phenique is used to treat cold sores.) Eventually the “bite” went away. A few weeks later, another bite appeared — in the same spot!
After the third time, I realized it was not an intelligent spider playing tricks on me but something else. I went to the doctor and explained what happened, and he thought it was some sort of allergic reaction. Medical professionals repeatedly told me that I could only get shingles once.
Finally, I found a dermatologist who knew what it was and gave me the proper medication and some reading material. He didn’t say much about the recurrences, and neither did the reading material. The reading material explained that shingles (Herpes Zoster) was caused by the chicken pox virus that was dormant (until it was active again) in my nervous system.
- Blistery, sometimes painful rash on one side of your body or face
- Flu-like symptoms such as abdominal pain fever and chills
- Headache (Including migraine)
- Joint Pain
- Swollen Glands
- Muscle weakness
- Numbing/ Tingling sensation on the same side of the body as the rash
- Possible vision or hearing problems
Aside from the complication of recurring shingles, which is rare, you can develop long-term nerve pain. Other factors such as eye or ear damage and sometime scarring of the rash area may present themselves. It’s important that you are seen by a physician and treated properly to avoid or control long-term effects.
Finding Help and Staying Healthy
If you have never had shingles, but did have the chicken pox, and you are 50 years old or older, talk to your physician about the shingles vaccination. I had four to six episodes of shingles a year. The worst one occurred after a day at the beach in the hot sun. It put me in bed for a week. I learned the hard way, what to do or not do to keep shingles at bay.
- Find a doctor that understands shingles
- Take antiviral medication at the first sign of an outbreak (Zovirax, Valtrex, Famvir )
- Stay out of the sun
- Get plenty of rest
- Exercise frequently (walking is good)
- Try not to get stressed (see below)
- Eat right, do not drink to excess.
- Don’t get too hot (too many covers on the bed, electric blanket, car seat warmers)
- Take immune system boosters
For me, stress is the biggest factor for frequency and sun the biggest factor for severity. I love the sun, and being in the sun is one way I de-stress. You can see my dilemma. When I know I am going to be in the sun, I limit my time in direct sunlight and now opt for the shade. I wear a hat if out walking. I try to avoid walking in the noon sun since there is no shade. If I have shingles, I stay out of the sun-period.
I can’t eliminate all the stress in my life. I have a family, a job and I do read the news daily. It’s impossible to live in a bubble and pretend things don’t stress me out. So I try to remind myself daily to breathe, to keep things in perspective and remember what is really important in life.
For more information regarding shingles, visit http://www.shinglesinfo.com
*A shingles rash may become infected. If this happens, see your doctor and request a prescription of antibiotic ointment and pills.