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Shingles Virus -
Photos and Description

Warning - Graphic Medical
Images
(This page not intended for
small screens.)

by Vaughn Aubuchon

Here is a record of my bout with shingles, also known as Herpes Zostrix. Shingles result from the vericella virus (reactivated chicken pox - virus summary).



When you get older, shingles can appear as the result of emotional stress, or sometimes sunburn. I did have a bad sunburn on my face and arms, but that was 1 month earlier. There was zero sunburn on my head, since I had worn a cap. Or maybe it was emotional, and I didn't even know it. But there was SOME cause!

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Shingles Virus on the Head -
Photos

Date
Description
.
Photo
9-20-08

Extremely rapid onset
I awoke with bumps on the top of my head, but didn't think much about it.
Pain: Light

No photo.

For comparison purposes,
all photos below cover the exact same area.
This is done to illustrate the progression of the disease, and to show the healing process.
9-22-08

2nd day

Pain caused me to shave my head, so I could see what was going on.
Initially, I thought that I had been bitten by a spider multiple times. I searched high and low for that spider, but never found anything.
Pain: HEAVY

Shingles Virus on Head - Sept. 22
9-24-08

4th day

Bumps on head.
At this point, it is pretty late for the vaccine.
Pain: Became OPPRESSIVE
Constant and unceasing

Shingles Virus on Head - Sept. 24
9-26-08

6th day

Bumps formed blood blisters?
A nurse friend said,
"That looks like shingles!"
Uh, oh.
Pain: OPPRESSIVE
Pain peaking around this point.

Shingles Virus on Head - Sept. 26
9-28-08

8th day

Scabby bumps on head.
The vaccine has little effect
4 to 10 days after onset,
so I didn't bother to get a shot.
Pain: OPPRESSIVE

Shingles Virus on Head - Sept. 28
9-30-08

10th day

Scabby bumps on head.
The bumps extend some distance around the scabs, and can't really be seen in the photos.
Pain: OPPRESSIVE

Shingles Virus on Head - Sept. 30
10-02-08

12th day

Scabby bumps on head.
Pain: HEAVY
I finally saw a doctor, who confirmed my layman's diagnosis. Yup! I got 'em.

(AH! I finally got a photo in focus. It's tough when you are doing self-portraits. My close-up mode has no flash, so I have to extend my arms over and behind my head as far as possible, and lower my neck. This one's pretty good.)

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 2
10-04-08

14th day

Scaly bumps on head.
Let the plucking begin!
The biggest chunk has been plucked (see below).
It looks bad, but it feels better.
My theory: As the scab dries, it contracts and causes the itching sensation. Remove the scab, and the itching subsides.
Pain: HEAVY
(but not related to scab plucking. It is a generalized pain, in a big circle around the scabs.)

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 4
10-06-08

16th day

Scabby bumps on head
Other large chunks have been plucked.
The black areas are unplucked nuggets, not yet ready to release easily.
Pain: Medium

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 6
10-08-08

18th day

Scabby bumps on head
One more large chunk to pluck (black).
Pain: Medium

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 8
10-10-08

20th day

Scabby bumps on head
All chunks plucked,
(others remain on side of head).
Pain: Light

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 10
10-12-08

22nd day

Serious plucking again today.
Several were plucked for a second time.
Popped right off.
Pain: Light

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 12
10-14-08

24th day

Scabby depressions on head,
where the bumps used to be.
All chunks plucked.
The area of scabbing is now a rather pronounced depression.
Pain: Almost gone

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 14
10-16-08

26th day

Scabby depressions on head.
The rather pronounced depression should fill in over time, I am hoping. I think that the hair follicles are pretty much gone, though.
Pain: Almost gone

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 16
10-18-08

28th day

Scabby depressions in head.
Notice the lack of hair in the crater area.
Pain: Very Weak

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 18

10-20-08

30th day

1 month after onset.
Scabby depressions in head.
Pain: Very Weak

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 20

10-22-08

32th day

Reshaved head for better visibility.
Deep depressions in head - maybe 1/8".
Pain: Absent Unless Touched
(such as a pillow)

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 22

10-24-08

34th day

Deep depressions in head - maybe 1/8".
Pain: Absent Unless Touched
Gentle rubbing and itching helps to soothe the area - plus, it's kind of fun to stick your finger in the craters - reverse Braille.

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 24

10-26-08

36th day

Here is a photo showing the location of the shingles patch.
Pain: Absent Unless Touched

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 26

10-28-08

38th day

Deep depressions remain.
Pain: Absent Unless Touched

Shingles Virus on Head - Oct. 28

10-07-08

48th day

Deep depressions remain.
Pain: Mild PHN,
occasional twinges
on chin and scalp

About the same.
WELL past 6 weeks, and they ain't healed yet!

11-17-08

58th day

Deep depressions remain.
Pain: Mild PHN,
occasional twinges
on chin and scalp

About the same.

I waited too long (10 days),
so I did not get the Zostavax vaccination.
An early doctor visit could have reduced the
severity of my attack (within 3 days).
In my case, there were no "fluid-filled blisters",
as have been described.

Most shingles photos shown on the Internet occur
on the face, neck, and trunk (back and chest).
All mine occurred on the top of my head (C2),
left side of my head (C2), and on the
left side of my chin (C3).
Apparently, this double dermatome involvement
(both C2 and C3) is not common.
Most attacks are related to a single dermatome.
.

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350


Shingles scabs from head - early count
Shingles scabs from head - final count

 .
This is what my particular shingles scabs looked like - not so pretty.
The top photo shows the early scabs, and the second photo shows the final count.
Some are shown scalp side up, others scalp side down, and others are viewed sideways.
Dates are approximate, and should be shifted about 2 to 3 days to the left,
but they are sequential as shown, from left to right.
.

-

Commentary
After about 1 week, I began to pluck the scabs from my head (Sept. 28).
Why? They hurt like crazy, and they also itched like crazy.
When plucked with my fingernail, I received a feeling of relief. There was very little bleeding.
I do not advise plucking, but I personally found it very satisfying. The pain remained, but the itching was much less.
Plucking too early will result in more pain, and greater bleeding. When they are ready, they pluck quite easily.
For me, waiting for them to fall off on their own, was out of the question. They demand attention.

Notice that on the biggest piece, that the hair is equally sticking out of the scab on both sides. I find this puzzling, and I have no explanation.
Neither end seems to have come from a follicle.
Notice that the larger scabs are about 1/8" thick, and pop off rather easily, like little nuggets.
By Oct. 10, I had harvested 95% of the shingles. The pain has finally subsided.
"They say" it takes 6 weeks for the wounds to heal, but I am past 8 weeks, with deep, pink scalp depressions remaining.
.

Post Herpetic Neuralgia
For some unfortunate individuals, in some cases, the pain does NOT subside, EVEN AFTER HEALING.
This is referred to as post-herpetic neuralgia (Post Herpetic Neuralgia), and indicates that painkillers may be required.
I believe that I am getting a mild case now - twinges that come and go.



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Shingles Virus Summary

Common Name -
Chicken Pox and Shingles
Scientific Name - Vericella virus,
vericella zoster virus

Youth
Disease

Usually caught in childhood, but can be caught much later.

Symptoms
Chicken Pox - eruption of fluid-filled blisters ALL OVER the skin and mucous membranes
Once the chicken pox virus is contracted, it remains in the body forever.

Treatment
Vaccination
Vericella vaccine must be given before exposure to the virus.

Older
Person
Disease

Usually appears after age 50. Frequency of occurrence increases greatly with age. It is estimated that 50% of all seniors over age 85 have had shingles.

Symptoms
Shingles - EXTREMELY PAINFUL rash and scabs, resulting from the reactivation of the long-dormant chicken pox virus, but usually only along a SINGLE SPINAL NERVE (dermatome).
Cervical dermatomes - 8
Thoracic dermatomes - 6
Lumbar dermatomes - 5
Sacral dermatomes - 5

Treatment
Zostavax can reduce the severity and symptoms of the attack, if injected within 72 hours of the outbreak. The trouble is, that it usually takes that long to figure out what is going on. But it is not too late to get some pain pills. Do it.

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DISCLAIMER
There is a graphics warning at the top of the page.
The author is not a doctor.

NO MEDICAL ADVICE IS OFFERED OR IMPLIED.
Statements on this page may NOT be correct.
These are just my personal thoughts.
The sole purpose of this page is to encourage further research on your part.

Thank you very much for your time.

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This Vaughns Shingles Virus Description
web page was last updated on 2014-11-13.