Shingles seemingly can appear anywhere. Shingles usually hit people over the age of 50. No matter what part of the body they hit, they are very painful. They often will start and spread around the torso. They literally wrap around your body like a belt. They deliver a blistering rash and oozing welts to the body.

The Norwegian translation for shingles is “helvetesild,” which literally means “hell’s fire.”

Shingles is sort of a by-product of chicken pox. If you ever had chicken pox, then you can get shingles. In 1962 a scientist names R. Edgar Hope-Simpson studied 1,270 people to discover that shingles was not a new infection. He discovered in his studies that actually it was the chicken pox virus, otherwise known as varicella zoster, that simply was raring its ugly head.

He also found that people whose immune systems were suppressed were more susceptible to getting shingles. Stress can be a precursor as it may weaken your immune system.

His theory suggests that during an episode with chicken pox, the virus can travel from the infected skins to separate cell bodies outside the central nervous system where they become dormant and can stay in the body for life. If the virus wakes up then it multiplies and travels throughout the body ... and can hit every organ system.

Many have seen shingles on the stomach or back of someone. Some may have seen them near someone’s eyes. A new discovery at Columbia University; Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York is that it can even attack digestive organs. They found that singles will attack the gut. Severe abdominal pain and ulcers may be indicative of shingles of the gut.

Since the shingles virus travels throughout our bodies it can also infect our arteries. Our immune system tries to clear the infection and this causes inflammation and may damage artery walls. If the shingles progress, it is possible to have a post-shingle complication where the shingles hit the arteries in the brain ... which could possibly cause a stroke. Studies show a whopping 31% increase in having a stroke for a year after having the shingles. If the shingles occurred in your eye then the risk is much higher. Research is being done to determine if having shingles in the eye can cause dementia.

The brain vessel damage looks very similar whether it is from shingles in the eye or a dementia patient. So far, studies show that people who have had shingles in one eye are at three times the risk of developing dementia than someone who has not had the virus.

Shingles can occur in your ear. Sounds fun, right? Well, let me tell you, from my recent experience, it is not. A couple weeks ago my ear started itching so I reached up and when I touched just inside the bowl I felt something like a cut. So, I figured I scratched it in the middle of the night.

As busy as I am, I didn’t really worry about it. If I didn’t touch it, then it didn’t really bug me. A few days later, my ear was on fire. We were in Vegas at our conference.

I took some Tylenol.

After I got back to the office and looked into the ear with a video otoscope (finally) I could see a very red, angry ear. It didn’t look infected ... maybe sinus issue? I didn’t really have but one little bump right in the bottom notch of the bowl of the ear. Hmmm.

The next day I felt like someone was shooting a crossbow in my eardrum. The pressure was unreal. My ear was swelling shut. A hearing test revealed I now developed a moderate-to-severe low frequency hearing loss in the right ear with a large conductive component. Really? What are the chances? Ugh!

So, I had been researching an ENT doctor and on Friday around 3 p.m. I sent over my test results and explanation and they agreed to see me on Monday morning. So I took the drive. Thank goodness. My diagnosis: shingles.

My ear and part of my face had become very tingly and hot. My right ear was ringing way too loud for my liking ... still is! Luckily, I didn’t get any paralysis to my face, jaws or eyes.

When it occurs in the ears, it is called “Ramsay Hunt syndrome.” Luckily, it was caught quick. He said I was not contagious as shingles can only be contagious if you actually touch an oozing sore and then touch your eyes, ears, or open wound. Thank goodness I never got any of the nasty sores. We caught it at the beginning and put it to rest.

The doctor put me on an anti-viral medicine designed to put the “chicken pox virus” back to sleep. I have to retest my hearing in another week and see if it is back to normal; usually this is normally a temporary issue. So, if you are over 50 and you can take the shingles vaccine I highly recommend it. I, unfortunately, am allergic to eggs and can not take it. So, I will continue to take my prescription and pray that there are no lasting side effects or return of this nasty little virus. #To Hear Better Is To Live Better!

Roseann B. Kiefer, B.A., BC-HIS, is owner of Lampe and Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Sebring. This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure your condition. Always talk to your doctor before following any medical advice or starting a diet or exercise program.