Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Symptom check

Pre-Rash Stage

Pain, burning, tickling, tingling, and/or numbness occurs in the area around the affected nerves several days or weeks before a rash appears. The discomfort usually occurs on the chest or back, but it may occur on the abdomen, head, face, neck, or one arm or leg.


Flu-like symptoms (usually without a fever), such as chills, stomachache, or diarrhea, may develop just before or along with the start of the rash.


Swelling and tenderness of the lymph nodes may occur.


Active Stage

A band, strip, or small area of rash appears. It can appear anywhere on the body but will be on only one side of the body, the left or right. Blisters will form. Fluid inside the blister is clear at first but may become cloudy after 3 to 4 days.


A rash may occur on the forehead, cheek, nose, and around one eye, which may threaten your sight unless you get prompt treatment.

Oh, for Pete's sake. Check.

Pain, described as "piercing needles in the skin," may accompany the skin rash.

Check. Oh, yes, definitely check.

Blisters may break open, ooze, and crust over in about 5 days. The rash heals in about 2 to 4 weeks, although some scars may remain.

Ewwww... not yet... [shudder]

The Fun That's To Come

Post-herpetic neuralgia is the most common complication. It lasts for at least 30 days and may continue for months to years. Symptoms are: aching, burning, stabbing pain in the area of the earlier shingles rash; persistent pain that may linger for years; and extreme sensitivity to touch.

The pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia most commonly affects the forehead or chest, and it may make it difficult for the person to eat, sleep, and perform daily activities. It may also lead to depression.

Cranial nerve complications may include:

Inflammation, pain, and loss of feeling in one or both eyes. The infection may threaten your vision. A rash may appear on the side and tip of the nose (Hutchinson's sign).

Intense ear pain, a rash around the ear, mouth, face, neck, and scalp, and loss of movement in facial nerves (Ramsay Hunt syndrome). Other symptoms may include hearing loss, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Loss of taste and dry mouth and eyes may also occur.

Nice. I'd heard of people having shingles, but certainly never considered the notion that I might get them someday, too. Thank goodness for a couple of alert friends at work who recognized it and directed me to the immediate help I needed. My own doctor couldn't see me until Friday afternoon; my co-workers told me about a local clinic that would treat me immediately and try to arrest the progress of the virus.

I had seen "Thelma's Hometown Clinic" before, but honestly, I'd thought it sounded amusing at best. But when I went to visit Thelma this afternoon, she saw me right away (even though I didn't have an appointment) and knew exactly what to do. I came away with a prescription for Valtrex as well as a couple of palliative pastilles to attempt to relieve some of the extreme discomfort.


Two or three weeks ago I began noticing a spot on my scalp right above my forehead. It felt as if I'd burned it with the styling appliances I use every morning, and I always noticed it because it had showed up right at the spot on the right side of my face where I part my hair.

I've been battling fatigue and flu-like symptoms on and off for that entire time. I've had diarrhea that didn't seem to originate with anything I'd eaten.

Yesterday morning, I noticed that the burn-spot was now several bright red, very sore bumps, but because of the location, I couldn't really see it clearly. I figured it was a couple of acne lesions. On the way home from school yesterday afternoon, I tried to touch the area and found it to be so painful I couldn't bear to put any pressure on it at all. Was it a ringworm? I thought.

I had Rick take a look at the patch last night. "Do you think this might be ringworm?" I asked. He looked closely at it and said, "No, that doesn't look one bit like ringworm. It's like bright red blood-blisters."

I put some clotrimazole on it anyway, just in case, and went to bed... but I couldn't sleep well at all.

This morning the lesions were very noticeable, and the pain was significant enough to prevent me from using the straightener. I left it in its natural mop-like state in hopes that the messy-look would be a distraction from the bright red rash on my scalp. Then at lunch I mentioned it to one of my co-workers, who looked at it and said, "Sounds to me like you've got shingles."

It had never even occurred to me. "Go back to your computer and look it up on WebMD or someplace like that," she said. "I bet that's what you have."

When I did, I was stunned to find a rather comprehensive list of my symptoms all neatly tied into one package.


The needling, burning pain is unpleasant, certainly, but the most aggravating thing I'm experiencing right now is the persistent twitching of my right eyelid. It's a symptom I usually get when I'm having a migraine. I guess I *do* have a rather nasty headache now, but this headache isn't going away anytime soon.


But you know what? The sun is shining down here, and the temperatures have been deliciously mild. I wouldn't be surprised if in a couple of weeks I started seeing things blooming.

Change is in the wind.

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