Why It's Important for Young People to Look Out for These Shingles Symptoms

Have you ever had chickenpox? If the answer is yes, then the virus that causes shingles (the varicella-zoster virus) is present in your body. Right now, it’s most likely lying inactive. But at some point in the future, it could resurface, traveling from your nerves to your skin and causing an eruption of painful blisters.

Don’t worry, it’s not uncommon—nearly one in three people in the U.S. will get shingles during their lifetime. Scientists aren’t sure why some of us go on to develop shingles and others don’t, but people with weakened immune systems, like those with HIV or lupus, are more likely to get it. Stress or trauma can also play a role.

Shingles has long been thought of as an infection that mostly affects older adults, specifically those between the ages of 60 and 80. But a 2016 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases shows that’s changing. The prevalence of shingles among Americans younger than 50 more than quadrupled from the late 1940s to the early 2000s, according to the study.

Recently, a news anchor from Florida shared his experience with shingles to raise awareness among younger people that they might also be at risk. According to News4Jax, Scott Johnson, who’s in his early 40s, developed an excruciatingly painful case just last month.

Johnson said he first noticed a hard, painful welt on the back of his neck. But soon it turned into an unbearable rash and spread to his face. Along with a painful rash, common symptoms of shingles include burning, numbness, and itching. There’s no cure for it, but prompt treatment with antiviral drugs can speed healing.

It turns out Johnson isn’t the only one sharing photos of shingles. Others who experienced the infection have posted their photos online, hoping to warn people about what it looks like and how it can manifest. Below, we’ve gathered 7 photos from Instagram users who want you to know what to look out for.

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On the left was me this time last year, and on the right is me today. My apologies for the graphic picture, but I don’t think words can truly describe what shingles and Bell’s palsy look and feel like on your face. It took a trip to urgent care, the ER, and finally to my primary care doctor to figure out what was wrong. The pain was indescribable. I was 32 and in seemingly good health. What doctors couldn’t see was the huge amount of stress I was experiencing. I had a one year old and a 3 year old, and I was putting everyone and everything ahead of my own needs. I thought if I could just grit my teeth and push through this tough period, I would be fine and could eventually focus on things like exercise, eating right, and taking care of my body. I thought it was selfish to do so at that stage. What I didn’t realize was that I was actually putting myself at risk. Going through this experience has taught me a huge amount about taking care of myself first. This doesn’t mean I care any less for my kids, it just means I wake up a little earlier, get my workout in, plan my meals in a thoughtful way, and make sure I’m managing my stress instead of sweeping it under the rug. As a mother, I think I, and so many other women, get lost in that role and think we should be living to serve and care for our kids. That is still a huge part of my life, but I’ve also learned to care for myself. My boys see that, and learn that I’m not a robot, and that exercise and eating well are just a part of life, not a privilege. A full year later, I am still dealing with nerve pain and itching, and some scarring. I remind myself how much worse my situation could have been, and how glad I am that I advocated for myself when the doctors misdiagnosed me. This has been a huge part of my “why.” Why I started this health and fitness journey, why I became a Beachbody coach, why I’m sharing this all with you. I want anyone out there in the same place I was to know that they are important and they are worth the time and effort. You can’t fill from an empty cup, fill your cup first!! #shinglesawareness #bellspalsyrecovery #selfcare #fillyourcup #strongnotskinny #fitmom #metime #c

A post shared by M A R G A R E T (@fromweightstoplaydates) on

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It’s been 5 years since I woke up with a case of shingles. On my face. We’ve all seen the commercials. They lead you to believe that shingles only happen to people who are 60 or older, but the truth is, it can happen to anyone at anytime. AND. IT. SUCKS. There were so many things that could have gone wrong for me: the infection was dangerously close to my eye, it could have easily blinded me. It was also sitting right on my sinus cavity and could have destroyed my sense of smell. There was also the possibility of it sliding back into my brain and killing me. I had to sleep sitting up for 2 weeks. But none of that happened. What did happen was that the virus got into my mouth and went into my stomach. It threw a party down there and damaged my bile ducts, causing me to not be able to digest food properly. This lead to an extremely rapid & dangerous drop in my weight and it was scary. Although I’m better now, I still struggle. If I eat one wrong thing, my stomach rebels and I’m never really sure what will trigger that reaction. Shingles is not to be fucked with, I highly recommend the vaccine if you can get it. #shingles #shinglesawareness #notfuckingaround

A post shared by Amy E Parks (@pzarks) on

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If you think you might have shingles you need to get to the doctors ASAP. The sooner you get the medication in your system the better. If you wait to long you could end up with a severe case like mine. My first symptom: When I washed my face I felt like there was pieces of glass on the right side of my face. Other early symptoms: extremely thirsty and tired. Then a small bump under my nose, as well as along my hair line and on my scalp, all on the right side. Shingles will ALWAYS be only on one side of your body. #sickness #sickselfie #shingles #shinglessuck #shinglessymptoms#meditation #medicine #medications #relax? #stressed #healthylifestyle #healthymoms #healthylife #bodyawareness #educateyourself

A post shared by Denise Bullard (@denisebullard_sharkey) on

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