Saturday, May 4, 2013

Surviving Shingles

By Vicki Polin

Examiner - May 12, 2013

With hindsight I shake my head, frustrated that I ignored the advertisement on television about getting the Shingles vaccine.

Every time I heard it I thought that I would never get outbreak, I was too young. I also thought that the commercial was just scare tactic and a bunch of media hype used by a pharmaceutical company that created the vaccine to make money. I can tell you from personal experience, the commercial aboutShingles doesn’t even come close to describing the burning pain that one can experience from a Shingles outbreak.

A little over a month ago I woke up one morning feeling like I was coming down with the flu. That night when I went to sleep I woke from a nightmare that someone had whipped me. I felt this burning sensation on my left side, looked in the mirror and saw this hideous rash that wrapped its self around one side of my body. I had no idea what it was. All I knew was it felt as if I was on fire. I immediately called my doctors office, not knowing if I should go to the emergency room or not. I had never had a rash like this, and the pain was increasing by the minute.
I spoke briefly to a nurse and description of my symptoms. As soon as I told her about the diagonal rash, a light went off and she said I think you have shingles and was seen by my doctor a few hours later. It was confirmed I had Shingles. My doctor explained everything to me, and said that over the next few days the rash could spread. That Shingles comes from the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. That after you've had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. That one out of every three people will have a shingles outbreak sometimes in your life.
My doctor also informed me that an outbreak can last for anywhere from six to eight weeks, yet for some people the pain can last much longer. She went on to explain, that it was great that I came in right away because it was early enough that she prescribed an anti-viral medication, which could lesson the severity of my outbreak and lesson the chances of complications.
I was hurting pretty badly, yet was pretty concerned about the types of pain medication my doctor was prescribing for me. It was all pretty heavy duty stuff. My doctor explained that the pain mostly likely would increase and how important it was for me to stay ahead of the pain.
I’ll be honest, as the days and weeks progressed, I became extremely thankful to my doctor for provided me with the medication she did. After the first few days I developed a high fever and then the pain really started to get intense. The only way I can describe the pain is that it feels as if someone is holding a burning flame against your body.
It was truly a blessing that the pain medication was able to make me sleep away so many weeks. I don’t know how else I would have been able to survive. The pain can be extremely intolerable at times. I’m still only five weeks into my outbreak and am still needing the relief the medication can give me.
I have never been one to suggest to anyone to get any type of vaccine, yet when it comes to Shingles, please have a discussion with your physician about getting vaccinated today. You really don’t want to have this experience.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s web page, the signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small section of one side of your body.
These signs and symptoms may include:
Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
A red rash that begins a few days after the pain
Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
Some people also experience:
Fever and chills
General achiness
Pain is usually the first symptom of shingles. For some, it can be intense. Depending on the location of the pain, it can sometimes be mistaken for a symptom of problems affecting the heart, lungs or kidneys. Some people experience shingles pain without ever developing the rash.
When to see a doctor 
Contact your doctor promptly if you suspect shingles, but especially in the following situations:
The pain and rash occur near an eye. If left untreated, this infection can lead to permanent eye damage.
You're 65 or older, which increases your risk of complications.
You or someone in your family has a weakened immune system (due to cancer, medications or chronic illness).
The rash is widespread and painful.

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