Surpise! A Wednesday post from me with a health update.
I had another round of diagnostics this week and the doc is about 75% sure he’s found the secret to this crazy head pain.
The new and improved diagnosis is freaking SHINGLES!
It’s absolutely the last thing I would have expected but that tell-tale rash is hiding back there under my hairline in the last place I’d have thought to look for it. (You could’ve knocked me over with a feather duster in his office on Monday when he told me.)
Apparently, I need to be happy they caught it early and quit my moaning. The earlier you start the anti-viral, the less secondary crapola you suffer from.
I always thought shingles was an “over-65″ disease but apparently you can get it when you’re under 50, even though it’s more rare. The fact that my varicella (chicken pox) antibodies were low, and my physical stress was high, left me wide open for an attack of the dreaded shingles. (That word even sounds creepy.)
Here’s the comment I left at Leanne Shirtliffe’s blog yesterday:
11: Days that I’ve had this wretched headache
8: Hours spent in the E.R.
2: CAT scans on my brain
1: Case of shingles*
*Who in the flaming cowbell gets shingles at 43?! I’m just sayin…
Of course I had to do some research…Here’s what I found out:
- Shingles (also called herpes zoster) affects approx 20% of Americans (1 million) each year.
- At least 1 in 10 people who had chicken pox as children will get shingles as adults.
- Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, or the chickenpox virus.
- The virus lies dormant in the body near the spinal cord and the nerve ganglia until something, usually severe stress or a weakened immune system, reactivates it. Once reactivated, the virus travels along the nerve paths, destroying them as it goes, to the skin where it erupts into a rash.
Apparently, it’s common for people to get excruciating, stabbing pain at the site of the affected area. (In my case, my head.) The doc said he’ll see people get all kinds of scans that turn out normal and then all of sudden the rash shows up and everyone goes, “Oooooh. That’s what’s going on.”
My little rash is slated to turn into extremely painful blisters in a few days, which may be accompanied by numbness, depression, tingling, shooting pains, fever, and headache. Sometime in the next month, it will all be over.
Here’s what I can do to speed things up:
- Take the anti-viral meds he gave me – when taken at the onset, it shortens the duration.
- Load up on Vitamins A, B12, C, D, and E.
- Minerals zinc, calcium and magnesium are also helpful.
- Take amino acid L-Lysine, which may inhibit the replication of the shingles virus (Lysine can be found in beef, pork, eggs and tofu). Also Essential Fatty Acids, Garlic and Coenzyme Q10.
- Last of all, foods like brewer’s yeast, brown rice, garlic, raw fruits and vegetables, and whole grains are primo when fighting shingles. Chocolate, nuts, and seeds are not good right now, since they contain arginine which counteracts the beneficial effects of lysine on shingles.
A rash and NO chocolate???! Over Halloween week? Mother of God.
Y’all better chomp some extra candy for me. I’ll be dreaming about the two mini Baby Ruth’s I ate before I did all this research.
What else can I do? (I found five other things!)
Stress reduces the immune system’s ability to fight off infections such as shingles. O-kay…note to self: learn to relax and avoid stressful situations.
- DON’T SCRATCH
I’ve never been good at this, but I’ll try. I’m supposed to “gently clean the blisters while bathing, but otherwise avoid touching or scratching them.”
- IF NECESSARY, SEE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST
If shingles are present on the face or near the eyes, see an ophthalmologist immediately since ophthalmic herpes zoster can cause blindness. Say WHAT??!
- TRY TOPICAL OINTMENTS
Ointments such as silvadene, Aspercreme, and capsaicin can help to reduce the pain of shingles. Cold packs applied over cotton may also be useful. *making list*
- WEAR LIGHT CLOTHING
Wear clothing that won’t rub against the infected skin. Unless I plan to take up turtlenecks or scarves, this won’t be an issue. It’s under my hair along my neck and scalp.
That’s it. That’s all I’ve found so far. To all of you who have been worrying for me, I appreciate it. I haven’t decided yet whether I prefer the ”shingles” diagnosis to “strained muscles in the head.” Time will tell.
Do you have any experience with shingles? Cough up the deets…enquiring minds REALLY want to know these things here at More Cowbell!
ANNOUNCEMENT: Catie Rhodes will be here tomorrow!! She’s giving us an early Halloween spooky story and talking about her new book, Tales From the Mist. I can’t wait! Be sure to swing on by and show her some love.