How Do I Know If I Have Shingles?

How Do I Know If I Have Shingles
Source – The New York Times

You may remember the itchy, spotty rash that appeared on your face and body when you were a kid if you had chickenpox. The chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster, may live within your body for many years.


Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 3rd June 2022.

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  1. The Telltale Signs
  2. Tests

How Do I Know If I Have Shingles? 

You may remember the itchy, spotty rash that appeared on your face and body when you were a kid if you had chickenpox. The chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster, may live within your body for many years.

That same virus may resurface later in life and cause shingles, commonly known as herpes zoster. It also causes a rash, although it’s usually more severe than itchy.

It may be identified by a blistering rash on one side of your body. To be sure, consult your doctor. You may be treated to help alleviate your inflammation and other symptoms after you’ve been identified.

Source - Science News

The Telltale Signs

Your doctor will initially examine your symptoms and inquire whether you’ve had chickenpox. The most common sign of shingles is a rash. Your doctor can usually determine whether you have it just by looking at your skin.

A shingles rash:

  • It shows up on one side of your body and face.
  • Itches, stings, and burns
  • It begins with red pimples that turn into blisters.

Other diseases may also produce shingles-like rashes. Your doctor may do tests to discover whether you have:

Contact dermatitis: An allergy to latex, metals, chemicals, or medicines causes a skin response.

Candida infection: It’s caused by Candida, a kind of yeast.

Dermatitis herpetiformis: Celiac disease may cause a rash in certain individuals.

Impetigo: Bacterial infection of the skin

Insect bites: They may resemble shingles at times.

Folliculitis: Hairs develop out of small openings that may become irritated.

Scabies: A skin disease brought on by a tiny insect known as a mite.

The additional symptoms that occur with shingles may help distinguish it from these diseases. You may also have the following:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Nausea

Tests

Doctors seldom test for it unless the rash alone isn’t enough to diagnose shingles. Some individuals are examined because they are more susceptible to problems. You may be subjected to a test if you:

  • Are you getting an organ transplant?
  • Have a compromised immune system?
  • Are you planning to start using a medication that suppresses your immune system?

To diagnose chickenpox or shingles, doctors utilise two kinds of tests:

Antibody: Your immune system produces proteins to combat varicella-zoster when exposed to it. Antibodies are proteins that your doctor may check for in a sample of your blood. A vein in your arm is used to collect the sample. These tests may determine whether you have chickenpox now or in the past, but the findings are often difficult to interpret.

Viral detection: This test can determine whether the varicella-zoster virus causes the rash. Scabs from crusted-over blisters may be used to gather samples for your doctor.

In 1 to 3 days, your doctor should have the findings. If the results aren’t precise, you may require a second test.

You’ll know whether you have shingles based on your symptoms and test findings. You may begin treatment to help you feel better after being diagnosed.

Sources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/do-i-have-shingles 
  2. AACC: “Chickenpox and Shingles Tests."
  3. American Academy of Family Physicians: “Shingles Overview."
  4. CDC: “Shingles Diagnosis & Testing," “Shingles Signs & Symptoms."
  5. Daniels, R. Delmar’s Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, July 2009.
  6. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases: “Facts About Chickenpox and Shingles for Adults."
  7. University of Maryland Medical Center, “Varicella-zoster virus.”

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