Friday, June 13, 2008

Up On The Roof.....

For this past few weeks, I have mentioned sun poisoning.

Apparently I was wrong. I went to a doctor yesterday on an unrelated issue and he took one look at my (now healing) lesions and pronounced that I had shingles.

Who knew? I knew there were shingles on the roof but I have absolutely no need of shingles on my head. They're nasty little buggers and continue to cause me discomfort because even as they heal, they itch! Mine were located on the right side of my head and face. They were on my forehead, my eyelid and in my scalp. I'm scratching like a dog with fleas and it's rather disgusting.

The doctor tried very hard (but unsuccessfully) to terrify me. He told me that having shingles on my eyelids could have lead it to going into my brain which would be fatal. (Living is fatal.) He also told me that I need to take pills because I might end up with postherpetic neuropathy for the rest of my life. Basically that means that I'd have a permanent headache and sore scalp.

This led me to think about something. For generations and generations, people have had shingles and gotten over them. (I treated mine with honey and aloe vera.)

I've never been one to run to doctors for relief from every passing illness. Some things run their course and that's how it's always been. I don't like the idea of dependence on chemicals to make sure I never feel any effects of any illness I might have.

On the other hand, I'm not an idiot. If there was something seriously wrong, I would see a doctor. There are medications I take because I have hypertension. I don't want to spend the last 20 years of my life drooling in a cup because of a stroke.

I'm not promoting lack of medical care at all.

But I am promoting limits on how often we weaken our immune systems by not allowing antibodies to form because we kill the process by alleviating every possible discomfort.

Shingles suck. No doubt about that one. However, letting them run their course is probably the best idea unless a really serious side symptom occurs. While I was definitely very sick, I wasn't in danger. I was just sick.

Any opinions?



Anvilcloud said...

Believe it or not, I once had strep ... foot. Really.

Anonymous said...

I agree; I don't treat viruses. However, I would be concerned about shingles getting in the eyes. As I recall you already have vision problems. This doctor you saw yesterday - he wasn't your opthamologist, right? I'd feel better if you (if possible) could call or see the eye doc.

hele said...

I also know that shingles can have nasty side effects. Maybe a homeopath?

Amy Y said...

Good for you for staying as natural as possible...

We treat coughs with honey and headaches with ice packs. Tylenol and antibiotics are an absolute last resort...

I'm sorry to hear you had shingles, though ~ that doesn't sound like much fun!

Suki said...

Totally agree :).
Overmedication, oversterilization are having horrible consequences in our day. It really needs to stop. We need to take care of our bodies, not stifle and overprotect them!

slouching mom said...

In general I absolutely agree.

But for illnesses that have potential repercussions for brain function -- e.g., sinus infections -- I do seek medical care. Same with strep throat for the kids, because the complication of rheumatic fever just strikes me as too serious.

I'm so sorry, Chani. I hear that shingles really hurts.

Defiantmuse said...

I agree with you completely regarding the overuse of the medical establishment. And like you, I will use it if necessary but usually there are other avenues to be explored first.

What I found interesting is that I recently read an article about how there was a sudden surge of people developing shingles and how it was related to a reactivation of the chickenpox disease.

But who knows. Most things having to do with the way the human body works is mostly speculation and guess my opinion.

we_be_toys said...

Shingles IS the chickenpox - its how chickenpox manifest in adults. I'm not really sure that there is a medical treatment for them, other than topical. I guess you could boost your immunes with garlic, ginger, ginseng - your choice - and that might help. A nice bath in colloidal oatmeal would soothe a lot of the itch, and yeah, honey has antiseptic properties as well when its used both topically and internally. I've never heard of shingles affecting the brain, but admittedly, I am not an expert. I had chickenpox as a kid so severely, they had to dose me with phenylbarbitol for the seizures, but I've never had it since. I have heard the symptoms can be quite severe in adults.

Poor Chani! I hope you feel better soon - I hate to be itchy!

Olivia said...

Well, Chani, I'm SO glad you know what you got. I'm not glad it's shingles. But the good news is that it is better to get it younger rather than older; sometimes it comes and never comes back. When you're younger (our age) your immune system can fight it off better and you have less chance of PHN. Now is also a better time to consider alternative treatments (as opposed to when you're older).

In my case, I haven't been fortunate with shingles. I've had it three times so far, but not in the last two years. 2004, 2005, and 2006. I was in my late 40's then. Aside from the obvious skin stuff, I felt sick sick sick the whole time, for a couple of weeks at least. I had to kind of check out of my regular life for about six weeks each time and spend most of my time resting. I was very, very fortunate not to have PHN, and consider myself blessed beyond all belief for that!

I discovered, after suffering with shingles over and over again, that with my particular body, I become vulnerable to it when I don't get enough sleep, which for me is 8 hours. I think that figuring out, if at all possible, what triggers it is helpful so that you don't get repeat episodes. But it's different for everyone. And some people will never know---or it could be multiple things. It can be just "stress". So, after one episode, good self-care becomes even more important than even before.

I am a scare-dy cat, having read and heard so many horror stories about PHN, that I run and take Famovir (heavy duty anti-viral) at the first sign of shingles. I feel great about doing so. I don't think everyone should do this, however. I think you should listen to your body and to your intuition and do what seems best. It sounds like you're doing that. Educate yourself, and then do what seems best.

Also, anti-virals are only effective in the beginning, I believe, before the blisters go hog-wild, so it becomes moot after a while (check on this though as to the exact timing, as I'm not positive when it's too late).

I don't consider any other practitioners but MD's for shingles because of PHN and the risk for me. I would also always take the most aggressive treatment to protect my eyesight, even if it's a longshot, because of the importance of reading to me. This is such a personal choice, though.

You're right that people have been going through it for years and have managed just fine for the most part. At this point I wouldn't worry and would just take good care (however you see this for yourself) and allow your body to recover with whatever professional support you desire. You'll probably have it this once and be done with it.

Yeah, that picture is absolutely shingles. Classic. Your doctor might just be concerned for you; and/or he may also be concerned about liability. He doesn't want to be sued because you were not fully informed as to all of the risks. He also has seen the horror stories; even though rare, they do happen. If you were my sister I'd tell you to "take the damn pills" too though!! But this is because I'm from the terrified camp...there is nothing I'd want to have less than PHN.

It's too late now though, I bleieve, for anti-virals. And you may have done the absolute best thing by allowing your immune system to fight it. Choice has been taken from you, in effect, so relax and take good care.

I hope this helps! Be well, my friend,



Mariposa said...

I strongly agree with you...for things that are tolerable and not that "serious" I try alternative meds...we have so many herbs here.

I have been bombarded with medicines as a kid...and it's a long fought battle to get where I am now...I'm trying no to be so dependent on them...and I'm getting better each day! :)

jen said...

i think we are quick to medicate...and that stems from our inability to withstand discomfort. however, and as you said, there are conditions that require it and medical technology makes that possible.

that said, though...ouch. shingles, from what i understand are indescribably painful. i am so sorry you've been struggling with this.

MsLittlePea said...

I agree with you. People so quick to take pills when they have the sniffles and it seems there's a new pill coming out everyday for symptoms I'm never even heard of. It seems like no one wants to feel emotions anymore either and take pills to dull it out. All the commercials for them try to convince you if you're not running on the beach laughing 24-7 you need that new pill. I'm all for exploring every avenue for good health but it's become ridiculous.

Anonymous said...


Rarely seek medical help. Check my body's intuition to let me know if and when there's something really requiring urgent care. (And we "know" when this is...most of the time. It is a felt sense. Quite unmistakable in its alarm system signals.)

Avoid antibiotics like the plague (want 'em to work good n'strong if ever in genuine crisis).

No vaccines despite being in healthcare. Just feels ooewy to deliberately inject something foreign into a functioning system. (Yeah, yeah, I know *all* about the importance of being innoculated against the Hep's in the event my skin is opened and an intruder has access. I know it's all good...just never got the "green light, Wendy, go for it, NOW, you heard me."

Totally trust the body has more wisdom than is known and accessed at this stage of our medical evolution. "Give it time to do it's thang, what's the hurry?", is my general moderus operandi unless dealing with acute crisis.

Aw, what the heck. Bottom line, everyone does what they want to do...for whatever reason(s).

Good evening, girlie. Sending soothing vibes to cool those flames.

womaninawindow said...

Hum, I was thinking maybe there was something more...sun poisoning can be bad but I just, this makes sense but I do feel for you. All I've ever heard about Shingles is that it is very uncomfortable and lasts too long. Good luck in restoring yourself.

Olivia said...

Dear Chani,

I wanted to get back to you about this. I talked to LoveHubbie extensively tonight about your situation and he read your post. He is an expert. He says to tell you:

1. The mere fact that you got shingles means that you are immuno-compromised.
2. People with intact immune systems do not get shingles.
3. Herpetic encephalitis is deadly with a mortality rate exceeding 60% with very little prodromal symptoms (warnings).
4. Herpetic keratoconjuntivitis can destroy your cornea within 24 hours.
5. Do exactly what your doctor says exactly how he says to do it exactly when he says to do it.

This is his informed opinion, so do with it what you will...

Wishing you love and healing,



Blog Antagonist said...

In theory, I agree with you. Drugs freak me out and I avoid them if I can.

But shingles anywhere on your head or face can cause damage to craniofacial nerves, which can lead to Bell's palsy.

If you aren't aware, this can cause permanent paralysis (I just skimmed the other comments, so forgive me if I am repeating something someone else said), which can be moderate to very severe.

A friend of mine in my twenties had quite marked facial paralysis caused by a case of misdiagnosed shingles. I later contracted the virus, presumably from sharing a hot-tub with her, though who really knows.

Thankfully, it was on my torso and not my face. But I wasn't taking any chances. I took a full course of steroids and anti virals.

It's your body and you should do what makes you most comfortable. But imo, shingles are nothing to mess around with.

The New Mom on the Blog said...

I've heard that shingles stay on for a long time and the recovery process is slow....Oh dear!

Good luck girl!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I got shingles for the first time at 35 when I was extremely stressed. I had never heard of it and thought it was spider bites. It lasted 9 months, although subsequent attacks have been less severe.

Shingles is a form of herpes which develops in some people who had chicken pox as children.

It is extremely dangerous if it gets into your eye, and sunlight makes it worse so sunscreens are indicated.

As far as I know, there are no preventatives, but there are medications which will shorten the length of an attack if taken at the first tingling, which normally occurs a day or two before the blisters appear.

Good luck in never getting it again. That is the outcome to be desired.

Z said...

A friend had shingles on and behind his eye - as it healed, scabs formed which had to be washed out. He had to keep going back to hospital for weeks and his eyesight was permanently affected. Some people recover quickly from shingles, others have nerve damage on whichever part of their body is affected, which gives pain for a long time. In the same way as you don't want to have a stroke which may not shorten your life but would permanently affect it, you surely don't want not to try to prevent permanent facial/cranial damage?

If it were I, I'd take the medication and I'd make every effort to boost my immune system and keep it boosted. Good luck, Chani, I hope you recover quickly with or without the pills.

seventh sister said...

I don't think that 'natural' remedies and aleopathic medicine are mutually exclusive of each other. Since the shingles are in close proximity to your brain, ears and eyes, it might be wise to take the medication. By the time anybody figured out that the infection had crossed the membrane bewteen your skull and your brain, it would most probably be too late to help you. If you want to do homeopatic or other therapies, that woulb be OK as long as all practioners are aware of everything you are doing. Chinese medicine might be a good choice as well.

Christine said...

my sister has suffered from shingles periodically since she was about 16. i am not sure, but i think she only took meds couple times. usually though she just rests (she gets really sick and achy and fevery) and drinks lots of fluids.

i think there has to be a good balance between taking care of medical problems and becoming a slave to High and Mighty Doctors. Sounds like you are taking care of yourself just fine.

RKK said...


I'm sorry that you have shingles. I know it is very painful. It sounds like the nerve root affected is your trigeminal nerve; it is common for the herpes zoster virus to take up lodging in this nerve root after a bout of childhood chickenpox.

The good news is that it is usually activated by stress, which is a potent immunosuppressant. I say that's good news because we can have some influence on the degree of stress that we allow to affect us. From what I know of you, you are better equipped than most (spiritually) to handle stress; use those qualities that I so admire in you!

Boost your immune sounds like you know how to do that naturally, and others have made good suggestions in that area. I would add that grapefruit-seed extract and garlic both have antiviral qualities.

Personally, I am not against synthetic medication when you know exactly what the problem is; most medications have their root in natural souces anyway. So, IMO, short term use for a well-delineated purpose (with a demonstrable end) may not be the wrong way to go. That's different from the "shot-gunning" that is all too common in our society.

UV light can also stimulate/irritate the affected nerve and root...protect yourself.

Finally, make certain there is no physical/structural insult to the functioning of your nervous's just one more thing for your body to deal with when it should be focused on healing; if I was in your situation, I'd make sure I was in alignment/proper muscle balance (the trigeminal nerve exits your cranium just under your ear near your jaw angle). Certain forms of joint mechanoreceptor stimulation have also been shown to boost you body's production of Interleukin-2, which is an antiviral chemical (yes, I'm talking chiropractic or other musculoskeletal bodywork - something that has the ability to stimulate these receptors).

Hope you feel better soon.

Journey Through Life said...

I very rarely go to the doctors. My first port of call is always my naturopath. I swear by her. Wonderful, wonderful healing woman.

Anonymous said...

I'm late and catching up. All the herpes viruses seemed ot be triggered by a weakened immune sstem, so doing eerthing you can to keeo yourself rested and healthy is the key.