Now, before I write this, I want to let you know that the sole purpose of this post is not to complain and revel in my bravery as if I'm some war hero, but to let people know that it's serious and there are many different symptoms that are not clear textbook cases. My case was not as bad as some that I've read about, and I got lucky, thank God.
With that being said, yes I got shingles !@#$%. It's been a week now that I am symptom free (my main reason for being absent) and although I didn't tell anyone really of this, I am writing about it now, in the hopes that I can help someone. My symptoms were NOT textbook case and the only reason I ended up going to the doctor's to being with is because nothing with me is ever textbook. And, I knew it was shingles, I'm a googler and biologist...we know these things ;)
I'm a 29-year old female who thought she was relatively healthy (ha!) but somehow managed to get shingles. I had chicken pox as a kid, and as most people know, the chicken pox virus lives dormant in our bodies for eternity and only manifests itself when we are weak. Why was I weak, don't know. I think emotionally my head was not in the game of school and with lots of ups and downs with family and all that fun stuff, I got sick...who saw that one coming?
Anywho's...here's my story. Read it with a box of tissues...just kidding! :D
Non-Textbook Case Shingles:
1. All week I was feeling really tired and weak. It was right before my period so I assumed it's PMS, but it was weird this time around. I was unusually sleepy and slept in all week and got to work around 11, sometimes 12 (yikes!). A few days before my period, I started feeling as though I had a fever. Chills, body ache, but no registered fever. Again, I attributed this to my period, because this is usually quite normal for me to feel like i'm getting sick before Charlie visits.
2. I didn't think much of it, meanwhile, I woke up one morning with the strangest itchy feeling on my back and didn't think much of it. It was right under my bra strap, so obviously I assumed it was my bra annoying me (all you women know what I mean). So, naturally I ignored it. All day it drove me crazy. This incessant itch that wouldn't go away. I took a shower that night and itched the heck out of my back and it felt better, but come the next day, the same thing. Finally I had my husband take a look, and he said I don't see anything. At this point I remember thinking to myself, I'm going crazy and started to remember that a few months back (~5-6 months ago) I had this weird itchy feeling all up and down my left arm (same side as my outbreak), and it lasted for 2 weeks. I would try to find anything to itch up against as if I was a cat. I did go to the doctors for it because I thought I was going nuts and the doctor said it was probably stress related or shingles, but without an outbreak they didn't medicate. Well the itching went away and there was no outbreak until now, 5 months later.
3. Small red bumps appeared a few days after the itching, as though I was bit by a mosquito, but it wasn't just one, it was a cluster of 7-8, some large, some tiny (hard to tell from my crappy pic). I first thought it was a spider bite (but what spider bites in 8 different places) because the bumps didn't bother me. It never spread, it didn't get bigger or worse, they never blistered, they were just there.
Best pic I could take. I couldn't find any pictures on google that looked like this - this is why I'm posting it. Gross I know. This was a few days after the break out, the bumps are drying up. One of them looks like it's a small blister, but you really couldn't tell looking at it. My husband couldn't.
4. After the bumps appeared, 2 days later, I woke up with extreme soreness on my entire left upper torso that wrapped around under my armpit. My lymph nodes were painful to touch and it was at this point I realized something was wrong, but based off my reading, shingles manifests itself with blisters AND I didn't have any. I'm also 29, not 59, so I thought to myself, impossible. So, I ignored it and thought maybe I lifted something or my bag was too heavy when I was biking. I popped a few advil and dragged myself to work. The soreness was so bad, I couldn't even lift my arm, let alone sleep on that side.
5. The next day, the soreness was still there, a bit less intense, but now the pain started. Excruciating, radiating, needle like pain. Some medical posts referred to it as burning, but it was more as if needles were being shot through my back and up my nerves. It was too sensitive to touch, and sitting back in the car while driving drove me crazy. Worst pain ever. Nothing helped except taking a deep breath during the intervals where the pain would disappear, waiting for the next round. At this point, I knew it was shingles. Mind you, I still went to work (bad idea). I dragged myself to urgent car, got checked out, told the doc I have shingles and needed something, at which point he laughed and said yes, you do and then he asked me what I did for a living (abusive googler)...anyways...long story short, got Acyclovir (aka Zovirax), and took them 5 times a day for 10 days (whoever came up with this regime was insane...do you know how complicated it was to remember this) and I totally told the doctor I could do it. Yes, they have a 3x a day option, but Acyclovir (from my research) was the better option...idiot! Note: make a chart for yourself, it really helps. By the way, my doctor had shingles when he was 15.
6. It took me about halfway through the meds to lose the pain. By day 3 of the medication the pain had gotten worse, and the bumps had slowly dried up, but the pain...my God! The sensitivity...my god and it still itched. At this point, my husband had a new title: The Master Itcher. He would itch around the breakout spot and it was like heaven...oh...blissful...
7. By about day 7-8 of the pills my pain was gone and the only pain left was having to remember to take the meds 5x a day.
My tale is epic, let me tell you ;) but out of all seriousness, it's not a joke and the pain isn't either. Those who have been through it know it's one of the worst pains, worse than any surgery rehab pain. It's excruciating. The key however with all of this is to get checked out IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you take the meds the better. My case was far from textbook and had I known, I would have gone sooner. Now, don't be paranoid like me: any itch I start to feel drives me crazy and I freak out thinking it's going to come back. It might, but probably not now.
Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles at ANY AGE. If you've had shingles, your immune system is stronger against it, BUT you can get it again. Even if you've had the shingles vaccine, you can get shingles. If you are young, stressed, depressed, stressed, bla bla bla...you can get it. If you are healthy and active and eat right (not a graduate student, haha) you are probably safe. Now my eating habits don't consist of fried foods or junk food, yet, I still managed to screw up my immune system with stress so that my body couldn't fight it off.
Hope this post helps anyone looking for answers. And shingles is NOT syphilis...do you know how many times I vocally confused the two...sheesh...