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I am working on a post about how I have shingles and not a tooth problem (hopefully not anyway). I know for certain that I have shingles which has affected my left trigeminal nerve and everything it innervates. Therefore I have sores on my (left side) tongue, inner mouth tissues, cheek, chin, temple and they are actually inside my left ear. And yes, it hurts to have sores in the ear canal. And the hearing in my left ear is limited.
So I will finish up the post saying how I mis-diagnosed my tooth pain and thought I might need a root canal when in actuality, and the rash was the biggest tip-off, I have / had shingles. The doctor did not need to look at me for long. I saw the best dermatologist at UVa Medical Center, Dr. Greer. So I am glad I was properly diagnosed and given anti-viral medicine for it. Unfortunately, it is a long, slow recovery process.
The following is an account of the days leading up to my obvious rash / bubbling sores and what I observed on those days. I tend to keep a decent journal, so these days are pretty accurate. I hear that having shingles as a younger person (I am turning 34 on Friday) and on the face is rare, so I wanted to document this for others.
February 26th – I noticed patches of my upper left temporal bone area (scalp) are numb to the touch. Plus I feel quite disembodied, which for someone who has done extensive emotional process-oriented body work is very disconcerting. I am still busy with work though so I try to push through it.
Feb 27th – still noticing both the numbness on my scalp and the feeling of being less-than-grounded-than-usual. I am still concerned but again when I go to work I am distracted from worrying about it.
Feb 28th – Now I am starting to have pain in my left lower rear molar, second from the back. Along with some pain coming from near my left ear. This is in addition to still feeling slightly out of my body. Now I am starting to become worried. I hope I am not coming down with something.
March 1st – I am off of work, so I get to rest a little. Although I run some errands and meet with a friend who is heading out of town soon. So not the best day of rest. Two tiny cold sores have broken out on my lower left lip. This is not unusual. But I am worried that I am getting sick though because I am usually in more control of my health. The way the cold sores sprang up without warning is definitely strange.
Mar 2nd – I call in sick to work. Digestive problems, loose stools, feeling feverish. My tooth and ear are starting to hurt worse. 3 out of 10 pain scale.
Mar 3rd – I resolve to call the dentist first thing in the morning as I think I have a tooth problem. Pain still 3 out of 10. My tongue has started swelling a little.
Mar 4th – get in to the dentist. luckily he does not have time to open up my tooth and complete the root canal. plus he is not entirely certain I am in enough pain for it to be a root canal problem. we reschedule a root canal for three days later to see if my pain gets worse. Pain still 3 or 4 out of 10. I start taking Ibuprofen for pain. I used some clove oil for my tooth pain. I thought this might be causing my tongue to swell because it was on the left side where I used the oil.
Mar 5th – Pain is getting worse. I am now taking 600 mg of Ibuprofen every 6 hours. A curious rash has started to break out below my left lip and around the left side of my chin. Tongue is slowly swelling more.
Mar 6th – We have an enormous snow. It snows 13 inches in Charlottesville. I call my dentist to tell him about my rash, which is starting to get worse. The pain is now shooting down from my ear into my jaw. Pain is at least a 6 out of 10 without pain meds. I have to take Percocet to sleep. The rash is getting worse – spread to my left cheek and there is a small spot starting in my left ear. Ouch. Outside of my face is swelling a little.
Mar 7th – The pain is intense. 800 mg of Ibuprofen barely eases the ear pain, or rather the pain is coming from a location just in front of the ear (where the trigeminal nerve comes out of the brain to the surface layers outside the skull, I think). Thankfully the dermatologist can see me. The sores are now gross – bubbles of irritated skin with obvious leakage of pus. The pus quickly dries and crusts up in yellowish bunches. My face looks rough. Pain now a 7 out of 10 without meds. Especially the area near my ear. Still the worst pain there. Luckily I get on the anti-viral medication: Valtrex. Red splotches have now started all over the left side of my face – below my lower jaw bone, my left temple, around my left ear, all over my left cheek. My mouth is noticeable swollen. Left side especially. I must eat gingerly and slowly to avoid pain. Plus I have to use a tooth pick to move food around as my tongue is less useful considering how swollen it is. I am forced to use a straw to drink and I only eat soups.
Mar 8th – The worst pain is today (Friday). I have to take a Vicaten to sleep, or attempt to sleep. I cannot put any pressure on my left ear or there is agony. I am forced to sleep on my right side. Pain is occasionally 8 out of 10. And for some reason, if I take narcotics (Percocet or Vicaten), when they wear off, the pain is burning and really really bad. The sores are still leaking and bubbly. It seems by the evening though that some of the red splotches are slowly starting to fade. The pain is always rough but sometimes it is very bad. Burning sensations moving through my left jaw, left teeth, left tongue, left ear, left lips. Always a dull throbbing ache. Sometimes sharp pain which is agonizing. Still using straw to drink.
Mar 9th – Saturday. This is the peak of the swelling. The sores are starting to dry up. My left cheek is very swollen though. Right to left is quite different. The pain is more manageable. I had been alternating 800 mg of Ibuprofen with Vicaten every six hours. Now I only require 600 mg of Ibuprofen. I only take the narcotics to sleep. The sores are no longer forming new vessicles, but they are still oozing pus. So I still look crusty and yellow.
Mar 10th – Sunday. For some reason, the pain is worse today than yesterday. Not sure why. Perhaps because I watched more TV yesterday? Did not rest as much? Don’t know why. I am still trying to take less pain meds but I ultimately regret it. More pain today than Saturday. Took 600 mg of Ibuprofen twice and then a Vicaten. Now I will try to sleep. It seems last night was the first time I could sleep on the left side of my head. But I had to be very careful and I needed to change pillow cases this morning as the pus crusties come off and stick to the fabric. Yuck.