Shingles is the result of the reawakening of a dormant chickenpox virus. The virus can sleep, inactive inside you for years, decades even, before jumping into action. What are the mechanisms responsible for flipping the switch?
What triggers a shingles outbreak?
Researchers aren’t positive, but there are conclusive studies that have determined risk factors. There’s a close connection between the status of your immune system. If you face immunocompromising circumstances (victim of certain diseases, take immunosuppressants, undergo chemotherapy or radiation), you’re statistically more likely to befall shingles. Additional connections with chronic illnesses like cancer, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, obesity, diabetes have also been concluded. Shingles is also associated with increased risk of peripheral artery disease, especially with family history of vascular problems. Age, specifically being over fifty, will put you at risk. This is due to the decline in cell mediated immunity that comes with aging. Undergoing organ transplant surgeries is a big indicator, but this also has a close relationship with a reduced immune response (due to medications needed to suppress the body to prevent rejection).
What are the first signs of shingles?
When we think about a shingles outbreak, we tend to shift our thoughts to the blisters and rashes. A rash doesn’t spontaneously manifest the moment the varicella zoster virus (VZV) becomes reactivated. The first signs of shingles aren’t redness or hideous blisters. The earliest warnings do have a connection with the skin. Before clear observational differences to your dermal regions appear, you will start to experience different sensations.
Depending on which nerves were affected by the previously dormant virus, you may feel numbness, tingling, or itchiness that is severe to mild. A burning pain has also been reported. Additional adverse effects of the resurrected virus may accompany the early stages. General feelings of being unwell or flulike symptoms may be your first indicators that this isn’t a normal skin irritation. A fever (over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit and 38 Celsius), tiredness, nausea, headaches, chills, diarrhea, stomach aches, or aching muscles are also a possibility. These internal things will appear soon after the activation of the virus. The rash itself may not appear for up to 5 days later.
Can you treat shingles symptoms in early stages?
You can treat a disease as soon as it’s recognized. In fact, the earlier one takes these measures the better. It can offer faster relief and recovery. It also shortened the amount of time you are contagious and inadvertently spread the virus to others. Treatment received within the first 72 hours of infection has proven most effective. Unfortunately, shingles symptoms in the early stages are a little trickier to recognize. Patients may not realize anything particularly alarming about these early stages. Misdiagnosis or delayed seeking of medical advice is common. This is especially true if you are not prone or aren’t expecting the outbreak. For those suffering from reoccurring instances or are members of populations where you are specifically susceptible (Immunocompromised like HIV or AIDs, chemo patient, or history of recurrent episodes), you may want to discuss preventative measures or investigation of underlying issues in order to prevent the event.
Pictures of shingles in the early stages
If you want to know what it looks like, you can consider referring to pictures of shingles in early stages via online databases, medical texts, or trusted leaflets. Information can be provided by your primary care physician or government agencies aiming at disease control.
While a few bumps may appear or marks due to succumbing to the temptation to scratch, these are typically signs of irritation rather than anything else. Until the rash is apparent, an untrained or inexperienced individual will likely not recognize it from images alone.
How to recognize a shingles rash in the early stages
The recognition of a shingles rash in the early stages of formation is much more manageable. It is very apparent and clearly distinct from irritated skin. The bumpy skin covered in blisters on the affected area will be very red in addition to painful. Itchiness and numb sensations are also noticeable. Depending on the affected region, additional signs may exist. A sagging face where one is unable to control their smile or has sagging eyes akin to those in an elderly person is commonly reported for shingles outbreaks on the face. Additional impairments with hearing, vision, and balance accompany facial infections. You may even describe the blisters as bubble like.
Similar diagnoses of early stages of herpes zoster
If an outbreak is unexpected, shingles share symptoms with many other diseases that may lead to some quick misdiagnoses in those first few days. The itching may be attributed to an allergy. Allergic reactions can manifest as hives or rashes in response to our immune system attacking a foreign agent. This could be food like peanuts, shellfish, gluten, milk, or tree nuts.
Animal dander, pollen, or ingredients to your personal hygiene products like soap or shampoo may do it. You may also receive a diagnosis of pityriasis instead. This rash begins as a round spot on your chest or abdomen called herald patch. The rash branches out and can be accompanied by other feelings of sickness. It’s also believed to be triggered by a viral infection but is not contagious. If you’re misdiagnosed, you may not be administered to proper treatments. Those who ineffectively manage (or leave their diseases untreated) are more likely to encounter complications. There is also the possibility a diagnosis of shingles is wrong, especially if you rely off of early signs and fail to conduct accurate laboratory tests. If your case of shingles does not appear to follow the trademark path (i.e. absence of blister formation or so on), revisit your physician for your follow-up.
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