So, it's been a while since I posted. Life does take over sometimes. But today I opened my blog, reread "Spiders" and realized that I needed to tell the rest of the story...
My "spider bites" were in fact not spider bites at all, but the beginnings of a miserable case of shingles. Perhaps many of you have never heard of shingles and, hopefully, never experienced shingles. Though I was familiar with the name, I really had no understanding of the condition, the causes or symptoms. I learned the hard way.
Shingles is a skin rash caused by the chicken pox virus. After an individual has chickenpox, this virus lives dormant in the nervous system and is never fully cleared from the body. Under certain circumstances, such as immune deficiency, cancer, or emotional stress, the virus reactivates and causes shingles. In most cases of shingles, however, a cause for the reactivation of the virus is never found. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk for the development of shingles.
Shingles rash starts as small blisters on a red base (so the "spider bites"), with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days. The blisters follow the path of individual nerves in a band-like pattern on an area of skin (mine was around my middle, mostly on my back). Eventually, the blisters pop, and the area starts to ooze. The affected areas will then crust over and heal. The duration of the outbreak may take three to four weeks from start to finish.
But, before the rash is visible, the patient may notice several days of burning pain and sensitive skin. When the characteristic rash is not yet apparent, it may be difficult to determine the cause of the often severe pain. I had done quite a bit of yard work the day before I first felt pain in my back and thought I had perhaps pulled a muscle or something. The pain continued throughout the course of the rash and I even had purple bruising around the rash.
Ben (my family nurse practioner son) confirmed my diagnosis when I sent him a photo of the shingles rash and prescribed an anti-viral medication. But, even with the medication, the shingles ran their course (though it may have been shorter than it would have been without) and the pain continued and eventually, as it healed I guess, the pain became constant itching!
Several weeks later.......I was finally well again. And that is the rest of the story.
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