The Risk Of Shingles
Last updated: March 2022
Each day I learn diabetes puts me at risk for other things. My epiphany started when I broke my ankle a month ago. I was pretty immobile which is not good for diabetes. The recovery is taking longer than I expected because, in part, of diabetes (and my age but we’re not going to talk about that).
Shingles and type 2 diabetes
A month into the ankle break, I got shingles. Where the h*ll did that come from?? I hit the internet to see what shingles were and how/why I got them. The connection is having had chickenpox as a kid. The virus lays dormant afterward and can reactivate later in life as shingles. Shingles begin with a very painful rash. The rash follows a nerve pathway. It looks very much like chickenpox; it comes out as blisters but it doesn’t cover the whole body. It stays localized to one side of the body. There are a few theories related to why the virus reactivates. Stress, coming down with another virus, having a weakened immune system are all part of the picture. Apparently people with type 2 diabetes are very susceptible to it.1-2 Great.
Shingles and stress
For me, it was likely stress-related. I hadn’t been sick and my immune system is generally very strong. Life had been very stressful in the last year or two. My dad was dying, then did. I had a major exam to write for the recertification of one of my credentials. We experienced flooding in our home. Then the ankle break. I could go on but I think you get the picture. I was stressed.
What to expect with shingles
Looking back, what I thought was muscle soreness from sleeping in the wrong position turned out to be the start of the shingles. I don’t really know how to describe it but the muscle soreness was different. It was sore and stiff but tingly. When the rash erupted, I was pretty sure I knew what it was because I had read up on it before. Mine was running in a line across the left side of my back/shoulder. It was painful. The blisters came out a couple of days after the rash did. Of course, it was the weekend so my doctor was not available. It was confirmed 2 days later.
My treatment for shingles
My doctor started me on a high dose of antiviral for a week to help shorten the duration of the rash. He spent time educating me: shingles usually last 5-6 weeks, it is contagious for about 10 days after the rash appears, I have to stay away from the elderly, pregnant women and babies. The doctor put me on a medication to help reduce the nerve pain. I could be on it for a while in the hopes that I would not experience post-herpetic neuralgia, common in folks with type 2 diabetes. This is nerve pain that remains after the shingles are gone. His last recommendation was to purchase a specific natural product cream that contains capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory that comes from red chili peppers. I also learned the product contained rutin, a bioflavonoid found in fruits and vegetables that acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, blocking pain pathways. According to my doctor, his grandfather, who was also a doctor but in Bangladesh, had been using capsaicin to treat nerve pain. It had been used there for generations. I bought the cream. All of these treatments made it bearable.
My takeaway about shingles
On the bright side, I learned:
- MOST people only get shingles once
- There are treatments to lessen the severity of the virus
- There is a vaccine to prevent it
- My husband can get that vaccine
- I can't get the vaccine for a year after the shingles infection
- If I was going to get shingles, at least it was while I was already housebound so I couldn’t spread it
Once again, diabetes puts me at risk for things I never expected. Ugh.
Do you find it difficult to "eat right" and stick to a nutrition plan?