Let me tell you my shingles stories. Yes, plural.
Back in 1996, I was 35 and was still in the Air Force and stationed in England. One day, I started getting this weird rash on the right side of my scalp. Since I am fair-skinned and worked outside on the flightline, I figured it was a bad sunburn. But over a period of several days, it worsened and started progressing down my forehead. It was at that time I went to the doctor to see if I could get some kind of topical relief. That's when I learned I had shingles. I had what? Up until then, I had never even heard of it, much less knew what it was.
After about a week or so, it got to the point where my right eye became infected with the virus. I remember having to go to the eye doctor because my vision had become blurry and bright light was causing real bad pain. I remember the doc saying that he could see the damage occuring to my cornea and he was prepared to admit me to the hospital for closer observation. Somehow I talked him out of it. But what is really seared into my memory about that visit, quite literally, was when he had that lighted scope and was looking into my eye. The pain was excrutiating and the doc actually had to hold the scope in one hand while forcably holding my eye open with the other.
I was put "on quarters" (couldn't leave the house except for doctor appointments) for about four weeks until the rash cleared. Although there was some permanent damage to my eye, I recovered enough that it didn't affect my job. However, it was soon thereafter that I started having to wear reading glasses.
Fast forward to four weeks ago. I started getting that familiar rash again, but this time, it was right above my right eye and below my eye brow. I went to my local doc and told her what I thought it was. She disagreed and gave me a topical anti-biotic to put on. Two days later, the rash erupted into blisters and I called the doc back. She gave me a prescription for a strong anti-biotic to prevent further progression of the rash and speed healing. Although this second time around was much less severe than the first time, it had again affected my eye. The area around my eye had become swollen, especially the tear duct. But after seeing my eye doc, he determined there was no active infection. Several days passed and the swelling went down and the blisters scabbed over.
But then it got really fun.
I then came down with some severe sores along the inside of my upper and lower lips. They appeared like canker sores and were extremely painful. It got to the point where I could not eat or drink anything above lukewarm in temperature as anything hot would set my mouth on fire. For a short time, even talking became quite painful. It was bad enough that I could not even go to work for a couple of days. I figured I just had to let these sores run their course.
Several days into this ordeal, it just so happened that my wife had a dentist appointment and was talking to the hygenist about what I was going through. Turns out, there is a laser treatment than can be applied to severe canker sores. The laser kills the virus while at the same time shortening the healing time. But talk about painful. The tip of the laser is rubbed along the surface of the sores and I swear I could feel the liquid inside the blisters coming to a boil! The tech had to run the laser slowly around my mouth three times and the whole treatment took about 45 minutes. As painful as the treatment was, that night I already felt a lot better and was able to move my mouth without near as much pain as that morning.
Within three or four days, the lesions inside of my mouth healed to the point that I was able to eat warm meals and enjoy my morning coffee again.
Today, I am healed and back to my ornery self.
I was always lead to believe that once you get shingles, chances are that you won't get them again. Not so in my case. With this recent episode behind me now, I can only hope to never go through it again.
If you haven't had the vaccine, get it. Period. You do not want to ever experience the pain, and possible lasting effects, from this nasty and highly infectious disease.