– Ben Martens


Last week I went to the doctor not knowing what was wrong and he diagnosed me with shingles… that disease that supposedly only affects older people. The doc said it can be caused in younger people because of stress, and coupled with some other stress related medical stuff I’ve had this year, I apparently need to take more time to relax.

But anyway, from a geek perspective, I found this interesting enough to blow right through that “Too Much Information” barrier and blog about it:

  • You can only get shingles if you’ve previously had chicken pox.
  • When you heal from chicken pox, the virus doesn’t die. Shingles is that old virus breaking out of your nerve cells.
  • It follows right along a line of nerves in your body. The doctor showed me a page from a book with a nerve line that directly matched my shingles.
  • It only happens on one side of your body.
  • About a third to a half of people will get shingles at some point in their life.
  • Someone over 50 is roughly ten times more likely to get shingles than a younger person.
  • The common thinking is that you’re very unlikely to get it twice in your life but a Mayo Clinic report from last year indicates that might not be the case. My doctor never mentioned it being a one-time thing.
  • There is a vaccine for it that can administered to older people (and there’s also a chicken pox vaccine for younger kids too.) The shingles vaccine was only licensed in 2006 but it’s supposed to reduce your chances of getting shingles by 50%.

Concern that I would give my newborn son a disease sent me to the doctor much earlier than I would normally have gone. That was a great move because catching it in the first 72 hours makes it much more treatable. The doctor said there was no concern about passing it on to my pregnant wife or to my newborn son. We double checked with our OB and she completely agreed. Woohoo!*

So while this week has not been at all fun, I’m very happy that it won’t affect my wife or my son!

PS. Please note that advice was given in my specific case. Don’t extrapolate to your situation. Talk to your doctor!