Over the past two days I've been writing about sensitive patches on my skin. Up until last night, there was no visible rash. Then last night a rash developed in two of the three areas where I suddenly have sensitive skin: my abdomen (right side) and lower back (right side.) My right thigh remains free of visible marks, but still remains very sensitive to touch. In the meantime, another sensitive patch has developed under my right arm (triceps area), and another painful area (which feels more like a bruise, i.e. not on the surface) has developed under my right arm (lymph node?)
I was able to secure a last-minute doctor appointment this morning with my general practitioner, Dr. L. She took one quick look at my rashes and said "Yep, it's shingles." Shingles is when the chicken-pox virus (a/k/a varicella zoster virus [VZV], a/k/a human herpes virus 3 [HHV-3]) reactivates and infects the nerves—usually on one side of the body. Apparently the painful rashes last for about 14 days.
Dr. L said that after a person gets shingles once, it may become a recurring problem. But if I recognize the symptoms sooner next time, and if I return to her immediately, she can prescribe drugs that will significantly shorten the duration of a shingles outbreak. She prescribed Valacyclovir, 500 mg, 3x/day for 10 days.
I formerly took Valacyclovir for about 2 or 3 years to control re-activation of HHV-6 and other herpes family viruses due to a weak immune system, which can sometimes allow these old, dormant viruses to "re-activate" in ME patients—or so it is believed by some ME specialists. This shingles outbreak is making me think I should possibly resume taking Valacyclovir on a long-term basis.
As a final comment, it was really nice to walk into a doctor's office and receive an immediate, concrete diagnosis, and a specific treatment plan. I'd almost forgotten what that's like.