Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spot On

I woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning with an itchy spot.  It felt a bit strange in the dark but it didn't take long before I went back to sleep. When I got up in the morning I remembered, and went and looked in the mirror.  I had a bright red circle, about the size of a quarter, with 4 spots in it.  I also had another one the size of a dime, with two spots in it, and a third one that was just the size of a regular mosquito bite.  I remembered a swarm of little bugs when I was checking out the garden the day before, and figured they had had a good feed on me.

Strangely the spots didn't itch all day, but the quarter sized one woke me up again the next night.  By Sunday morning, the single spot that looked like a regular bug bite had 4 more around it, and I had not been back out to the garden.  It didn't look like the other two areas though, as here were spaces between the red spots. Once again, it didn't seem to itch during the day.

That is when I started googling rashes online and looking at pictures. The closest I could find to what I had was shingles, but I had the shot within the last year as I wanted to make sure I never had that problem.  I asked my Facebook friends if you could get shingles even if you have had a shot.  I don't think I ever got a real answer, but I was not in pain, and I had always heard shingles were painful. Several of them did urge me to seek medical help.

By Monday morning the spot that was multiplying had done it again.  Where there had once been just one small spot, there were nine or ten. Only the newest ones were even mildly itchy and if they had not been spreading, I likely would have ignored it.  I had to go to the medical centre about my orthotics that day anyway, so I phoned over and asked if I could see someone while I was there.  The receptionist told me there was no way I could see a doctor that day. I said even a nurse would do, and that I only needed about 30 seconds so she could identify what was going on.  She said that if I waited until the afternoon, she might be able to find someone to take a peek.

I had my lunch then packed a book and went over there, expecting to sit for quite a while, but within 20 minutes a nurse called me in and was ready to see my spots.  Her instantaneous choice was shingles, but then she changed her mind and went to seek a colleague for a second opinion.  The one she was looking for was busy so she came back with another one, who quickly did the same thing.....thought it was shingles and then changed her mind. By this time the third nurse had arrived, and her opinion was the same as the other two.  None of them knew what was causing my rash, but they decided it was perhaps a staph infection and suggested I mix some Polysporin and cortisone together and apply it to the areas.  I did that, but found the areas were sensitive. There were, by now, lots of little blisters there that didn't like me touching them.

Tuesday things did not look any worse, but the area was a little more sensitive. Still, I figured, since it was not spreading, we were on the right track.  I caught myself going to look to see if there was something new in between two of the areas though, more than once, as that area just did not feel comfortable.  Nothing there.

On Wednesday, morning I found new spots.  It was spreading again. The area that started as a single spot was now two and a half inches long, by one inch wide.  I got back on the phone and wanted to see an actual doctor.  Mine is away and the replacement is only here two days a week.  I was told they could book me in next Thursday.  That's more than a week away, and as I told the receptionist, I hoped that the rash would be gone by then. I'm thinking our medical system is not working if the only place you can get someone to look at you is by going to the ER with a non emergency condition.  I told her it was spreading and I needed to know what it was.  She said she would call me back in an hour and in the meantime she would see if she could fit me in with someone else.  She did both.

The doctor took one look and said it was definitely shingles. I told him, like I told the nurses, that I'd had the shot, and that the rash was sensitive, but there wasn't actual pain.  He said that the shot's effectiveness varies by age and that it cuts the risk by about half when you are in your 60's.  Lovely.  It cost me $179 to prevent this and I get it anyway.  He did say, if I had not had the shot, it would be a lot worse than what it is, so I can be thankful for that.  He could not give me the antiviral though as it was too late for that. I told him I'd been in on Monday, when it would have been effective, but the nurses had not identified the problem. The doctor asked if I minded if he showed the nurse what to look for in someone who has had the shot.  Of course I didn't mind. She had already seen me anyway.  So he pointed out the blisters and the way everything was on just one side of my body.  The fact that I had mentioned that the area between the spots was tender now had also alerted him to the fact that I had shingles. Of course I didn't have that problem on Monday.  The nurse thanked me for letting the doctor point out things to look for in the future, and said it was nice to meet me.  I agreed, but suggested it would be even nicer if next time it was somewhere on the street instead of at the medical centre.

I have now looked up more about the shingles vaccine as I thought it would prevent shingles, not just reduce the chances and severity.  I'm also sure I was told when I got the shot that this was a one time thing.  Now I learn that apparently the shot may only last for four or five years, and as I could get shingles again in the future, it may not be effective at an age when I'd really need it.  So, was I right to get it when I did?  Well, if it prevents debilitating pain now, I guess so, but  since the efficacy of protection has not been assessed beyond four years and it is not known whether booster doses of vaccine are beneficial, I'm back to worrying about getting shingles at an age when I'm less able to cope.  Meanwhile someone made $179 off my fear.


  1. Gahhhh!!!! At LEAST it's not as bad as if you didn't have the vaccine! BUT STILL!!!! :-(((

  2. Eeeeks!! Although you'll never know for sure, I think it was still a good thing you got the vaccine. My mom had shingles a few years back and she said the pain was at times unbearable. She's never had the vaccine. Here's hoping you'll never get it again and that you heal quickly!


  3. I knew it was shingles the minute you said it hurt when something touched it.

    Hope it clears up quickly!

    I think I must get the vaccine.

    Sue RH

  4. Cambrea---good to know. I'm over 60 and I have the virus (trigeminal neuralgia also caused by zosters0. Next time I see the doc I'll ask him if it would do me any good. Any pain avoided at anytime is worth it.

  5. Oh....I suggest consulting doctor at the same time you find any pain or issue on your body.

    1. I tried. The appointment they offered me was three weeks later. One would hope a rash had disappeared by then, so it would have been of little use.