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What You Don’t Know about Shingles Can Hurt You [for Life]

You have probably heard quite a bit of buzz lately about Shingles and the newly formulated vaccine. I woke up this morning and felt so compelled to share my experiences about it that my Sunday morning ritual can wait, because what you don’t know about it can seriously impact your life.

Let me tell you a little story:

For five years I took stewardship of my papa who had Multiple Myeloma. This means I took him to all his doctor appointments and surgeries, helped him manage his finances, business endeavors, his medications and his estate. We spent the bulk of most every day together; we became good friends as well.

One day he said his right arm was really bothering him so I took a look at his hand. He had small raised bumps on his arm and a few on his palm. I had never seen a Shingles outbreak and knew little about it, but being a medical intuit, told him it was the case. Unfortunately, he didn’t believe me. I did some research and learned if he could be put on an anti-viral quickly, it could minimize the symptoms.

He did acquiesce to me taking him to a Dermatologist, and then a second opinion and neither of them confirmed my suspicion. Weeks turned into months and after the damage was done, he was finally diagnosed with Post-Neuralgic Nerve Pain (PNP). This pain was debilitating, it lasted for years, and impacted his life on a daily basis. He had difficulty doing even simple tasks, like writing or brushing his teeth.

The worst to witness was the searing pain in his entire right arm, which lasted until his last breath.

Are you at risk?

Thirteen percent of all people who experience Shingles, will result in Post-Neuralgic Nerve Pain, which can last weeks or years. It may sound like a small risk, until you realize that one in three adults will develop Herpes Zoster in their lifetime. If you have had the Chicken Pox virus, which is 99% of all adults born before 1980, you are at risk!

This information isn’t available to the mainstream patient; you have to dig into the research available to physicians to get the full picture, so I want to advocate for you and make sure you have what you need to be informed. Knowledge equals power, people! The more you know, the better you can advocate for yourself and others around you.

Now, it may sound like I’m making a case for the vaccine, and I’m not. It’s clearly up to you as an individual to determine if you want it; free will, and all that. But I will tell you that I am an advocate of it in spite of what I recently experienced just this last Monday.

This week, I was knocked sideways.

I am over 50, 59 and some change in fact. So, I decided I would get the Shingrix vaccine. You start with one shot and then receive the second one anytime between two and four months later. The first vaccine was relatively simple. It is quite honestly one of the most painful vaccines (as compared to a flu shot for example) but I was fortunate in that I didn’t have any side effects.

The second vaccine, which I learned was newly formulated, was administered this week and knocked me sideways. I experienced severe muscle soreness, lower back aches, fever, headache and chills. I had most common side effects for a couple of days, and also some more serious effects like feeling faint. These side effects occur in about 30% of cases.

If you decide to get the Shingrix shot, allow yourself at least a day or two to recover. We have to realize that these vaccines are designed to provoke an immune response, so our bodies are taxed, working overtime to a perceived viral attack. Treat yourself kindly, get plenty of sleep, drink water and rest.

Here are some facts:

  • You can get Shingles more than once
  • If you have Shingles, you cannot spread it to others, but the virus is contagious and has the ability to cause Chicken Pox to someone who has not had it, or the vaccine before
  • Those who have had Chicken Pox are at higher risk for developing Shingles
  • If you’ve had Zostavax shingles vaccine, you still need the two doses of Shingrix vaccine
  • If you suspect you have the symptoms of Shingles, seek out help immediately so you can be prescribed an anti-viral, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir or famciclovir.

It can impact any nerve pathway in your body. The common locations are:

  • Around your trunk or shoulder area
  • On your face, potentially effecting your eye and may result in vision impairment or loss
  • On your arm

I ask that you seriously weigh the benefits and the risks. To me, the risks of NOT getting it are high. Not only is Shingles excruciatingly painful, and has been likened to childbirth or passing a kidney stone, it can leave lasting effects.

On a bright note, we are blessed to have medical technology on our side. We are blessed to have eradicated many diseases in our country. We are blessed to have many good doctors and care available to us.

As always, I am here for you. Stay healthy!


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