My mom is now 85 years old and has survived a severe case of cancer (2010), lives with serious bone decline issues (pain), lung problems and deep depression. She also broke her wrist at the beginning of this year and her hand did not recover its full functionality.

I had not logged in here in a long while just because I basically have had no time available as my caregiving life has become almost a 24 hours cycle. But what brings me here today is simply put, despair.

My heart is breaking seeing my mom, who has fought very hard in life with so many illnesses, literally broken with Shingles disease pain. The rash started showing last Friday but she started feeling the pain about two weeks prior. She is also experiencing a weird coming and going hearing loss since then. A day after the rash appeared a doctor came to see her and prescribed antibiotic, antivirals, antiviral cream and pain medication. I have been applying the cream every day, meds are taken but the pain is unbearable. Her blisters have opened (I guess part of the process) and they are raw is several areas. I struggle to take off the gauze every time because I pull and take her newly born skin with it. I use chamomile water to clean her wounds and to help me pull the gauze, it is terrible.

She was also diagnosed with bronchitis but assumed the antibiotic would take care of both illnesses, yet she stopped the antibiotic two days ago per dr indication. She still has low-mid grade fever, I am also afraid the Shingles is making the bronchitis secondary when it should not be,

Bare in mind my mom has a high tolerance to pain, super high tolerance. Yet this is breaking her, and when I read about Shingles my heart aches when I see it can last a long time.

This is not right, not fair.

We live overseas, so meds are likely the same as in the US but with different names. PLEASE if you have any suggestions take a moment to share them here. We are truly despaired.

I have even considered hospitalization, but now with the threat of COVID that may be counterproductive.

We believe in God, and know everything has a purpose. I am just trying to help my mom, who is so weakened with this illness. And finally, I am also concerned about myself, I have been experiencing dizziness when I move, if I lay down, get up or move my head to the sides, and I thought or think it is only tiredness, but it has been about a week now. So, I just feel this illness is breaking both of us.

again, any suggestions will be a blessing. Thank you in advance.

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Oh Rosses, your poor mother. I had shingles (I was only 50) and it was 6 solid weeks of the most endlessly agonizing pain I have ever experienced. It started with a weird tingle over my eyebrow and I felt like little "shocks" were hitting my scalp. I was put on anti-virals before I even got the rash along with some serious pain killers which did very very little to ease the pain. Virus ended up in my eye...which swelled up like a lemon and caused corneal scarring. I told my kids if I ever got it again, to find a way to legally put me out of my misery and I was not kidding.

I was advised not to cover the rash - to leave it open to the air to decrease weeping, and cleanse simply with a clean wash cloth and tepid water twice daily. I asked for sleeping meds as the pain would not allow me to sleep. They helped me doze but I guarantee I did not get a good nights sleep during the whole 6 weeks I was bedridden. It took me a good 7 months to totally recover. Nothing has ever knocked my off my game like shingles. I sure hope your mom feels better soon.
Helpful Answer (7)

I'm so sorry about your mom. For those of you who are reading this, please get the vaccine so that you don't get shingles (or it's severity is reduced). One out of three older people will get shingles. Yes, one out of three! Spare yourself this misery. Insurance usually pays for the vaccine. A new vaccine came out several years back. Even if you had the old vaccine, get the new one. While you've at it, get a flu vaccine too! If you are 65+ get a pneumonia vaccine.
Helpful Answer (7)
Shane1124 Nov 2020
I agree. It’s two injections 6 months apart and insurance covers it in most instances.
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BarbBrooklyn said:

"Get the doctor on the phone immediately. Why was mom told to stop the antibiotic after 2 days if she has bronchitis?"

I would have concerns about this as well, for several reasons:

1) Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you've had CP, it remains dormant in your system and can come back as painful shingles, esp during stressful times. Antibiotics do NOT work on viruses. I see that there were also antivirals prescribed. The worst part is the pain - if the pain meds aren't working, perhaps she needs something a bit stronger?

2) Bronchitis can be either viral or bacterial. IF it is viral, the antibiotics *might* still be helpful to ward off any secondary bacterial infection. Being sick with both could compromise her system and lead to additional infections. IF it is bacterial, then why would the doc say stop? One thing we are always told is NOT to stop, as this is one way super-bacteria are produced.

IF she was having a reaction to the medication, then do stop, but there should be an alternative. My daughter had an ear infection at 9 mo. The antibiotic was NOT treating it and she ended up unable to hold down water and broke out in hives! Despite 5 days on medication, she had a SEVERE ear infection. When switched to another antibiotic, all was good. If there is allergic reaction, the primary reason for taking an antibiotic isn't likely to be treated. So, beware that too. Perhaps she would need another antibiotic?

I haven't had shingles myself, hopefully won't ever, but my mother did. From the Mayo Clinic:


There's no cure for shingles, but prompt treatment with prescription antiviral drugs can speed healing and reduce your risk of complications. These medications include:
Acyclovir (Zovirax)
Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

Shingles can cause severe pain, so your doctor also may prescribe:
Capsaicin topical patch (Qutenza)
Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin (Neurontin)
Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
Numbing agents, such as lidocaine, delivered via a cream, gel, spray or skin
Medications that contain narcotics, such as codeine
An injection including corticosteroids and local anesthetics

Shingles generally lasts between two and six weeks. Most people get shingles only once, but it is possible to get it two or more times."

As you noted, the names may be different where you are located, but the doctors should know how to figure it out.

The last part is included as warning - this could take some time to resolve. Many sympathies to your poor mother! Hopefully she will be in the two week group, not the 6 week one!
Helpful Answer (6)
garylee Nov 2020
I agree with everything that is written here. I have had the shingles and got treated before the blisters even formed good. I got over it in about 5 days but it was painful and the pain was a severe burning.

My wife had them twice within a 12 month period. The first episode lasted for several months. The second was shorter and less severe. The Capsaicin topical patch and cream was helpful for the pain both times.
I am an atheist, so I can't really weigh in on God, but shingles is excruciating, and worse for some than for others. In all truth, as a nurse, I would suggest that you DO consider hospitalization.
I would call your Mom's doctor on Monday and explain that despite her high tolerance to pain this pain is breaking both of you; I would request hospitalization so she can receive stronger medication than will be allowed (I THINK) to you at home. With her fragility they will be hesitant to provide such things as fenanyl patches and so on, I would just guess, though they may.
Pain is the newest vital sign. It is taken very seriously. Call her practioner early on Monday, and do know that the ER is there; I hate to suggest going through there with Covid-19 on the rise. It's the last thing she can deal with now.
I am so very sorry. This is dreadful pain, and it is horrific to feel so hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. I hope you will update us.
Helpful Answer (5)

I’ve been told that pain from shingles is absolutely excruciating. Did they prescript Acyclovir for the virus?
Use can use just tepid water and wet the old dressings before taking them off. That will make them easier and less painful when removed.
Barb’s suggestions are spot on; try to leave them open to air if possible, try a lidocaine or calamine spray . While they are draining I believe they are contagious, however, and need to be covered. Try a telfa dressing; they are designed not to stick to the serous drainage.

Ask her doctor to prescribe pain medication for her. Short term use won’t cause dependency and she needs something now. Tylenol will help a little.

Regarding the bronchitis mom is probably not breathing too deeply because of the pain. Was the antibiotic one that is given for 5 days (zpak?) I would ask the doctor how he plans to follow up on the bronchitis for resolution.

I hope those lesions heal quickly. They should begin to subside in 2 weeks or so. I’m so sorry for her.
Helpful Answer (5)

I don’t think anyone has mentioned CBD oil for this condition, but I’d ask for input from your mother’s doctor, and if given the go ahead, I’d try it without hesitation. It has none of the negative effects of marijuana, but some very helpful effects when used medicinally.
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Rosses003 Dec 2020
Ann, my mom took the CBD oil drops in days when she simply could not stand the pain. It worked. Not for a long time but at least she was able to fall asleep. She does not love it because some of the times she said she felt relaxed but still could feel the pain and I think she still has in her mind the relationship between CBD Oil and Marijuana, but there is absolutely nothing in CBD Oil that causes a person to “get high”. I, not being a doctor but being a daughter witnessing a parent in extreme pain, can say it does help. And considering that my mom has been taking a LOT of medication that have affected her stomach tremendously, CBD Oil has been effective yet not damaging for her stomach.
Rosses, you should get no stick dressing to cover this. It really works and is not painful to remove.

I don't know anything about the medical side but, I love colloidal silver for any type of issue. It is natural and seems to help with so many different issues. I even read where a woman had eye herpes, which is viral, and using that multiple times daily actually healed it. (I just read about it and can't say true or false but, I can say the I use it for everything with great results.) Get the highest parts per million that you can and if you want to make it I would be happy to send you instructions.

Do you know if the pain meds are for nerves? My dad was prescribed lyrica and gabapentin when he had shingles and he said it made it bearable.

May The Lord God almighty bless your mom with deliverance from the pain, may HE lay HIS healing hand on both of you and lift you up from this despair.

Mark 16:18, ...they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Believe when you pray and she will get better, it is God's word. As a believer we know that ALL of HIS promises are for us and HE can not lie. I will be believing with you that The Lord will intervene and deliver her and you.

God bless and keep you both.
Helpful Answer (4)
Jojokatz Apr 2021
Was your dad taking both gabapentin and lyrica? I am in month 2 of pain phase. Currently taking 1800 mg of gabapentin. I asked to switch to lyrica to see if it offers better relief. Pain is unbearable. Not sure if gabapentin helping . sometimes I’m about 25% better after taking gabapentin. It seems movement sometimes helps so may be moving about rather that gabapentin is the thing helping. Wonder if lyrica will help more. I am alone with no caregiver. I care for several rescue animals so can’t go in hospital. Very hard to care for them much less my self. My dr did not mention taking both. I have not started lyrica yet. Are they both for nerve pain ? Thank you.
So sorry your mom is having such pain.

Here's how we treated shingles when I was an active duty RN:
Please treat the shingles like Chicken Pox - because that is what it is. Calamine lotion will help the sores to dry and ease any itching. Do not cover the sores since they need to dry. If you need a bandage. put a non-adhesive pad closest to the skin, cover with gauze to absorb exudate, and wrap with rolled gauze. Try to avoid adhesive tape on skin. Consider putting mom on a schedule for her pain medication and any anti-itching medications as well. It is easier to manage discomfort if she has a steady medication level in her blood stream. Sometimes a cool compress (ice + water in a ziplock bag and wrapped in a towel) can ease discomfort. Cool "oatmeal" bathes can be soothing too, No hot water. You'll know you have turned the corner when she stops having fever and stops having new lesions.

Be careful since the lesions and her respiratory secretions/breath will have the chicken pox virus in them.

]My Gram had shingles and it affected the nerves in her hand. If your mom stops using a limb, notify the doctor. She will need physical therapy after she recovers.
Helpful Answer (4)

Where is the shingles rash? Is it facial? Any facial numbness or weakness? I am concerned that she has hearing loss associated with it. She may have something called Ramsey Hunt Syndrome where the auditory nerve gets affected by the shingles virus. Lots of good information above especially from the Mayo clinic about possible treatments but most of them need to be prescribed by a doctor. You can pretty much forget about the opiates in my opinion apart from maybe helping her sleep. None of my patients have ever really benefited when the pain is severe. I think you need to go back to the doctor and update them on the situation and the hearing loss in particular. She might need steroids to help. She certainly needs to consider different painkillers and topical treatments. In some cases the pain is long-standing but mostly it will start to significantly diminish allowing decrease in painkillers over a few months or even sooner. The worst is the immediate period when you have the rash as well.

As for your problem, it sounds like you have vertigo. Out of the blue like this the most common cause is either labyrinthitis or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. The labyrinth is the gyroscope system in your inner ear that tells you which way is up and which direction you’ve turned in. Labyrinthitis (or vestibular neuronitis) is thought to possibly be caused by a virus but no one is really certain of the cause. Inflammation of the inner ear causing over stimulation. If there is nausea and/or vomiting associated with it this is probably the cause. BPPV is caused by over stimulation of the hair cells within the labyrinth usually by what is basically a bit of grit in the system which has fallen down into the area where the hair cells area and so overstimulates them on slight movement. Sometimes also causes nausea. There are medications you can take that will help with the vertigo and the nausea if they are severe. Labyrinthitis will usually settle of its own accord over a few weeks. BPPV might need treatment like the Epley manoeuvre which you can find on the internet. Cawthorne-Cooksie exercises are also useful. But if you are having any hearing loss or ringing in your ears you need to see the doc as it could be Ménière’s disease.

I hope this might have added to your information a bit. Good luck. My prayers are with you. I DO believe in God but I don’t think God causes these things for a reason usually. I think they just happen because we live in an imperfect world and this is a part of that. It doesn’t stop us from praying for resolution and relief.
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Rosses, like Alva, I'm an atheist and don't believe that a deity is going to be available to help someone in despair.   That's not intended to be snide, or critical.  It's just factual.   We're on our own.

I do feel for your mother; she's dealing with a combination of factors.    Although this may seem lightweight, have you tried music for soothing and relaxation?  It won't affect the conditions, but it may redirect her mind allowing her to relax more often.  

I can guarantee that anxiety and nerves affect pain levels; when I'm experiencing that, I dream of gardening to help decrease the discomfort.  When my sister was in the last stages of cancer, we listened to soft music, and therapeutic music, such as the lapping of waves on shore.  It helped both of us fall asleep, something that became elusive as her cancer progressed.  Maybe this would help your mother relax?  And that in turn could make the pain and discomfort less prominent.

Do you have any pets?  If not, you might even buy a child's toy pet.   I found that helpful also when I was extremely stressed.  A live, warm, furry and snuggling pet is even better.    Cats and dogs are good therapy.

Some areas have animal therapy; perhaps you could check to see if there's one in your area?   Or ask friends or neighbors if they'll bring their pets over, although the big caveat with that is the contact b/c of the pandemic. 

As to the shingles, my only experience is when my father developed a case after having been hospitalized for 6 months, battling a combination of life threatening conditions.    I don't recall for sure what kind of patches were applied, but I believe they were lidocaine.    He was in rehab at that time and had outstanding care, the best I've seen anywhere.   

If I recall correctly, one of the treating physicians also prescribed Buspar during the shingles period.     I can't confirm whether or not it did help; my father was a strong person and didn't express his pain.    

With your mother's bone decline (I'm assuming osteoporosis), do heating pads help?    My sister introduced me to herbal heating pads, filled with scents of roses and geraniums.   The heat is soothing; the herbs are calming.   I don't know if this would help your mother's osteoporosis; it does help me though, as I use it on my back.

As to your dizziness, are you taking any BP medicine?  Or Toprol XL?   They can cause orthostatic hypotension and dizziness on rising.    I think some calming therapy could also benefit you.

When my mother stayed with me, I played piano for her; we both relaxed, and felt much better afterward.   Music really does have charms to soothe people.

I have no idea what the health care system in S. America is like, so I don't know what access you might have to other medical care, such as a different doctor.   But I'm concerned about skin being pulled off as the dressings are changed on the Shingles area.
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