Sounds of the heart. Whispers of the soul.


Herpes Zoster : Pain has another name – Part 1

First things first. This is not related to Herpes of the umm… you know!!! There is nothing sexual or sexy about this!
It’s just a virus of the same family, and hence carries the family name – ah so sweet!!!
Oh! And it is also called as Shingles. Hmm… rhymes with the Jingles of a Christmas merry! But hey nothing about this will make you merry!

So, what started as a supposedly nick, rather a cut, on a Friday night shaving of my 2 week beard, for a clean look, resulted in a week of pure, excruciating, pain. So much for a clean look!!!

The harmless cuts of the Friday night’s shave, looked dark, black ominous things by Saturday noon. By evening they were oozing fresh juices, and joined by several gangs of glistening blisters for company. By night, the blisters swelled up, and so did my cheek. All this only on the left side of my face.

And then at midnight, the pain started.
A pain unlike any I have experienced before.
Pain that would make the next 3 days quieter, shocking, numbing, paralyzing, puzzling. A sexy pout. And very, very painful.

The left ear seemed to have lost at least 80 percent of its hearing abilities. Maybe more. Yes, it was definitely quieter! The world seemed to be much more peaceful, and I could just begin liking this. But then listening to music in Mono just does not sound pleasing. Naaaah, let my ear be more than a good-looking accessory!!

As if the pain was not enough, it came with a constant reminder every minute.
A shock of pain that would send a viscous tremor through the whole body. And in that moment, all I could feel was the pain. Sight, sound, taste, touch, nothing, no other sense seemed to exist at that point of time.

From the ear up to the chin, all along the left jaw, felt numb and heavy like having received 4-5 anesthesia shots in a dentist’s chair before 2-3 root canals!!! Numb but not to the pain.

So some of the food I ate slipped and fell I guess to stain my shirt. Now how about washing down the food with some chilled water. Oops that too drools down to fall onto the shirt. Numb and paralyzed. Looking on the bright side, saved a trip to the basin to wash of the food stain!!

Sexy Pout.
So the swelling did not stop at the cheek. The lower lip were all geared up to compete with the sexiest pout out there. Jolie, these lips are not lying!!

So what is this? Never did a bad shave turn this bad. So much for a clean look! So what was this pain? What was this hearing loss, the paralysis? Dental or dermatological? Given my great dental record (I don’t think I have more than 10 virgin pearlies) I was definitely leaning to my strength, err, weak link(s).

Very. Very. Painful.
So, how do I describe this pain? 3 root canals at a time, that too without anesthesia in a marathon session of 48 hours? Combine this with a 24×7 headache. Hearing loss, with bouts of severe pain. Some teeth becoming extremely sensitive. So sensitive, that they react with every single breath. I did not even mention about the always present headache. And the difficulty/pain in speaking.

So Sunday turned out to be one of the darkest days even though the sun was shining. So many BIG hospitals, but abysmal state of OPD on Sunday, with neither a dermatologist nor a dentist visiting.

A visit to my dentist, thorough inspection, and several x-rays(another topping of pain) ruled it out to be a dental problem. Phew! But the visit also brought out a possible root canal in the near future, even before I could heave a sigh of relief(just don’t like dental treatment in-spite of my vast experience). And I am still puzzled.

Next stop, dermatologist.
Looks at my face. Looks inside my mouth. Looks under my shirt. And declares – Herpes Zoster. That’s the answer to my puzzle. And I never heard of it before. Well, I knew the first name. Didn’t know it had a last name!!

And then she explains.
This is caused by the same virus(varicella) that causes the chicken pox, that itchy, icky blisters/pimples, almost all of us got as kids. Apparently the virus never leaves the body and merely lies dormant. And when it wakes up, it usually appears in this form, almost always impacting nerves. Sometimes it could also come in the eye, which could lead to blindness.
It can also lead to permanent hearing loss if in the ear. This is much more common in older people, 60 and above. But can occur at younger age if leading a stressful lifestyle, or having a weak immune system.
The scars heal without leaving a trace usually, but the pain, and the impacted organs(eye, ear,etc) may take weeks, months or even years to feel normal again.
There is a vaccine available and is advised to be taken by anyone above 60.

As I sit and process the information she gave me, I wonder.
(i) So will my current look of a zombie eventually fade out before they make Zombieland 2?
(ii) Will my ear function normally again? Or will it just hang there for the sake of anatomy and symmetry?
(iii) Almost every-time you visit a doctor for almost any illness, stress is almost always the primary reason.
(iv) So is my body in the state of a 60 year old?
(v) How much of my nerves are gorged up by this virus?
(vi) What does the future hold?

Time will answer me about (i) and (ii)
(iii) job change? Mindset change?
Complicated, need to think about it in peace and quite else I will get stressed.
(iv) Come on, it can’t be that bad. Come on. Stop. It can lead to more stress!
(v) I hope there are tests/measures to find the extent of nerve damage and whether it’s reversible or not.
(vi) Again only Time will tell. But even now after a week, things do not feel normal. Well complete recovery is seen in about 50-70% cases, and can take from weeks, to months, to years, to never. So lets see, whats in store for me. I am just hoping to not have a relapse, and never to experience these days again.
Let’s hope I can write a more cheerful Part 2 concluding this post.

In closing, and on a serious note, please consider vaccination for yourselves and especially your parents against this really painful ailment which comes in a smiley name of Shingles also!
I have no idea why doctors never advise our parents about this, when they get their health check ups done.
The statistics show that it is fairly common. Well 1:1000 is very common to me and not worth the risk for this excruciating yet exquisite pain!!!

If you need to know more about this, my first hand(face)experience, please feel free to contact me. I’ll help in whatever way I can.

Informative Links:
Herpes Zoster or Shingles:

Ramsay Hunt: