The Misery of Shingles

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by Lelainia Lloyd |

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I noticed recently that my left eye was irritated. It felt sunburned, which seemed odd given that it’s late autumn on the west coast of Canada, which means it’s chilly and wet. It was bothering me enough that I looked in the bathroom mirror to see what the problem was.

There was what appeared to be a small abrasion on my left eyelid. This puzzled me because I’d had my glasses on all day and couldn’t remember scratching my eye. I went to bed and didn’t give it another thought. 

Over the next couple of days, my vision occasionally became blurry, and I had to take my glasses off several times. I wear progressives, and I found I could see things up close better with them off. I have a ridiculous habit of assuming there’s something wrong with my glasses whenever my eyes are off, so I figured it was time for a new pair.

By Sunday evening, my left eye was really painful, and another look in the mirror revealed that I had a number of blisters on my eyelid. Alarmed, I called my family doctor. My doctor’s practice has an on-call service on nights and weekends, and I got lucky that it was my own doctor who answered my call. I explained what was going on, and he told me I had shingles, a viral infection characterized by a red skin rash that can cause painful blisters as well as nausea, chills, and fatigue. I was stunned.

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He called in a prescription for antivirals, and I drove 15 minutes to the pharmacy to pick them up. By this point, I was nauseous and just wanted to get my meds as fast as possible so I could go home and crawl into bed.

By the time I got home, I had the chills. I quickly took my first dose of antiviral medication, put on my jammies, and called it a night. I felt awful and slept poorly. I kept waking up because my eye was incredibly itchy — it felt like someone had poured a bottle of hot sauce into it. I also had a raging headache and was shivering. 

The next morning, my eye was almost swollen shut. I went to my doctor’s office for the follow-up. I now had the angry red shingles rash on my forehead and the left side of my nose. He examined my poor left eye and decided he was worried about my vision, as shingles can cause blindness. He advised me to see my ophthalmologist.

My ophthalmologist saw me the next day and did a thorough eye exam. She assured me she didn’t see any signs of iritis from the shingles attack, but she wanted to see me again in a week, to be sure. She gave me four bottles of eye drops to help with the pain in my eye, so I wouldn’t have to make another trip to the pharmacy. I was feeling so terrible, and her thoughtful act meant everything to me. I very nearly burst into tears.

I had to cancel my weekly wheelchair curling for the rest of December, as sad as it made me, because I didn’t want to expose anyone to the virus, which can also cause chickenpox. I’ve also been following my doctors’ orders to get some rest, because if I don’t recover by Christmas, I can’t spend the holidays at my son’s. My baby grandson is only 8 months old and has not had chickenpox. The prospect of missing his first Christmas and being forced to spend the holidays alone is heartbreaking. I am doing what I can to recover as quickly as possible and prevent this from happening.

As a neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patient with a number of autoimmune comorbidities who is on two biologics, I was at risk for developing shingles. Now that I’ve had them, my family doctor said I have to wait two years before I can safely get the vaccine. I will definitely get it as soon as I am eligible. I never want to go through this again, and will do whatever is necessary to mitigate the risk. 

As a final word, I want to thank everyone who has read “The View From Here” for the past year. This is my final column for BioNews, the publisher of Neuromyelitis News, and the people have been so lovely to work with. Thank you, BioNews, for providing this wonderful platform for the NMO community. It has been a privilege to share my experiences living with NMO.

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Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).

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