Shingles Pain

How would you guess that you have got shingles? Shingles pain is one of the clear indications, but it occurs in stages and in certain patterns. First you need to know that shingles is a manifestation of the same virus that causes chicken pox. It is known as varicella zoster. That’s the virus. The disease is called herpes zoster. You probably contracted chicken pox as a child. You may remember the spots, the itching, the feelings of tiredness and illness. Well, the chicken pox didn’t just go away when it went away. It went into hiding. That varicella zoster virus retreated to some of your nerve centers near the spine.

So, what is it doing back again? It came back again because, for some reason your immune system took a hit. You may be under terrible stress. You may have HIV. You may be under treatment for cancer. Radiation and chemo can affect your immune system. Perhaps you had an organ transplant, and had to go on immunosuppressant medications. Whatever is going on to knock down your immune system, the varicella zoster broke out of hiding and is on a tear. The virus tracks outward along your nerve axon fibers toward the skin surface. When it gets to the skin, a spotty rash develops in the pattern made by your nerve endings. And those nerve endings catch fire with pain.

When you first start to get shingles, you will likely have something that feels like the flu. This can last for a couple of days or more. Then you may feel some tingling, or itching at the site on the skin where the virus will come out. The skin will be affected on the stomach, sides of the back, arms, legs, face or forehead. After that, get ready for the real shingles pain.

The next stage is the worst. This is when blisters form on the skin. The blisters will be along one side of the body, and will sting, and hurt like hell. The blisters will usually form a pattern like stripes or bands. This is one of the major tip offs that it is herpes zoster. The blisters last for a couple of weeks or more. Blisters begin with clear fluid inside. In a few days, the fluid becomes milky, then after about a week, will crust over. This is the time that you may have the most pain and discomfort. There are some cases, however, where people do not even develop blisters.

For most people, that’s it. The pain goes away, and life is good again. For some, however, pain becomes lasting, or chronic. This is called posttherpetic neuralgia. This chronic pain can last a month or more. It can even continue for years. The pain is piercing, and unstopping. A breeze brushing clothing against the skin in this area can cause intense pain. It can become so extreme that all normal life functioning can be affected.

Do you remember when Dave Letterman was missing from his show for over one month? This was in 2003. He had shingles, and it messed him up so bad that he couldn’t work. Shingles pain is nothing to make light of. It can be serious, and disrupt your life.