Eye Saga Part 2: It’s Shingles

Yes, that is the diagnosis. I have shingles.

I saw my primary care physician on Friday, at 10:30am and after looking me over and hearing the tale, said he thought they were shingles after all. I just haven’t presented the symptoms in the normal way. The pain usually comes before the rash, and in my case, the rash came without any pain at all.

However, my eye is another story, because it is involved, too. In fact, THAT’S where the pain first showed up and that’s why it was devoid of any sign of symptom.  (Also why everyone thought it was dry eye, which is the most common cause of the symptoms I was showing.)

My PCP said I needed to see an ophthalmologist that very day and his office would see that I had one. Well, I ended up with an appointment, but it was with an optometrist after all. (In fact, I think it was the same one I would have seen the previous Wednesday, had I hung on to the 10am appointment.)

She was excellent. Inspected my eye thoroughly and agreed: it’s shingles, all right. She saw two “vesicles” on the outside of my eyeball, neither of which are likely to threaten loss of vision. One’s on the cornea, the other on the conjunctiva. There’s another on my upper eyelid.

Illustration from antranik.org

Illustration from antranik.org

The pain I felt in my eye for the last week, the weirdness of it, the way it would come and go, the kind of stinging, flash-like sensation of it, all this before any redness showed up, was the shingles affecting the nerves there.

But who would ever think that apart from the bumps on my forehead?

Anyway, I’m on meds now, and anti-viral and an anti-inflammatory, which come with their own somewhat unnerving side effects, but as I’m getting used to them, things are improving.

The pains have also moved to other areas on the left side of my face — the back of my tongue, in the temporomandibular joint, sometimes in my neck, on the top of my head, just to the left of the centerline — all consistent with the diagnosis.

And I can actually work on the computer for a bit without my eyes going completely bonkers.

I see the eye doc tomorrow morning, and the PCP on Friday. I’m hoping the meds will take care of it, but one thing I’ve learned about shingles is… who knows what it’s going to do.

I was feeling guilty because I didn’t get a shingles vaccine last summer when my PCP told me to, but he said the vaccine has a 60% success rate so it’s pretty much a toss-up whether it helps. A third of his shingles patients this year had gotten the vaccine, and ended up with it anyway. So there you go.

The coolest thing about it all was that when I went across town on Saturday morning to look at the new eyeglass frames I’d ordered two weeks previously, I stopped at Starbucks first for breakfast, took one of my new anti-inflammatory pills and drove on to the optician. While I sat in the waiting area, my heart suddenly seemed to be pounding in my chest, faster and harder than normal.

I grew alarmed. It was only 20 minutes since I’d taken the pill. Was this a side effect? Was I going to suddenly have a seizure? Collapse in a fit of anaphylactic shock?  I got up and went to speak to the woman at the desk…

And it turned out that she had shingles , too! Was just getting over it, in fact. How’s that for a “coincidence?” We had a fascinating conversation, and in the end I was much comforted, so I know that was a provision from my loving Father, reminding me He has everything in hand. As always.

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