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Shingles Symptoms in Healthy Adult

So, I had unprotected sex (not the whole of it, just few minutes) about 3 weeks back. I have itchy skin and rashes on my abdomen, arms and thighs (nothing on the genital area) for some days. I have my dermatologist appointment next to next week. In the meanwhile, I looked through the net to see what it could be and shingles symptoms match ~100% with my situation.
I haven't had any other health issue and have had perfect health (I'm M, 25). Further net search tells me that I could get Shingles only if I'm 50+ or have immune system compromised, major reason cited is HIV. I have signed up for a HIV test later this week as well, but this period inbetween is just killing me. I can't focus on anything else.

If it is Shingles, does this mean it has to be HIV?? Help! (I understand that this has been answered before, but every case is unique so I'm trying to get input on mine. Help will be highly appreciated. Thanks again)

This discussion is related to shingles at 28.
17 Responses
Avatar universal
From what you say, you're symptoms don't match shingles (herpes zoster) at all. Singles would be a sharply localiized patch, only on one side of the body, and typically very painful. See your doctor as planned, but I'm sure that's not it. And even if it is, shingles defintely does not mean you have HIV. It's only slightly more common in HIV infected persons, and even then it's an issue of people with longstanding infection, typically for several years (i.e. with advanced immune deficiency). Finallt, although shingles is most common after age 50, it is by no means rare at your age. Either you have found a misleading website. Or, more likely, your anxieties are filtering what you "see" about shingles.

So stay mellow until you see the doctor.  Almost certainly you have neither shingles nor HIV.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your reply, HowardH. Any word from people like you is very very helpful. Would like your say on some more doubts:

If shingles symptoms are supposed to be localized (which isn't my case), then can it rather be Disseminated Herpes Zoster (which is even more dangerous?). I was going by shingles because of the symptoms mentioned online match one by one (other than fever and headache, which I haven't had) and pictures look similar (fluid filled bubbles, with some dry and cratered out in some days). Are there other skin conditions which are commonly confused with shingles?

Also, websites did mention shingles as one of the very first signs of HIV, which freaked me out with HIV (Seeing that what else could be the reason of immune system lapsing).
Avatar universal
Disseminated zoster is an extraordinarily rare condition -- and if you had it, you would be at death's door. No chance, nothing to worry about. Also, the chance of catching HIV from a single episode of unprotected vaginal sex is extremely low, under one in a thousand even if she had HIV, which almost certainly she did not.

Occurrence of shingles is not evidence of "immune system lapsing". It occurs in entirely healthy persons.  Had it myself once, and so did my neighbor's 13 year old son a few years ago. We're just fine. And there must be a hundred skin conditions more likely than shingles in this situation.

Since the dermatologist apparently can't see you right away, it might be a good idea to take some high quality photos of your skin lesions and rash, in case it changes in appearance before you are seen. In the meantime, stop obsessing about shingles (not a chance) or your sexual exposure, which probably has absolutely nothing to do with your rash.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your assurance, HowardH. So, I'm kind of believing for now that it isn't the case of disseminated zoster.
(What still worries me is that I can find no other condition with similar symptoms, I also went through this list for eg: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-common-adult-skin-problems, and the only one it matches is shingles (along with the pattern. And it is spreading everywhere (on both arms now)). (I wish I can attach a picture here)

And yes, while I knew the girl I had exposure with as a friend and know that she would've told me if she had HIV. But that kinda makes it more risky, right? (i.e. if she was in fact affected, she would most probably be in the acute (most contagious) phase).

P.S.: For now, I followed your advice and took some pictures. And as I read it somewhere, am applying calamine lotion on blisters.
Avatar universal
"if she was in fact affected, she would most probably be in the acute (most contagious) phase)":  I don't follow that reasoning.

More important:  If you really are having a generalized, blistering rash over much of your body, it could be your are correct, in a sense:  did you have chickenpox as a child? Were you vaccinated against it? If the answer to both question is no, maybe you have chickenpox now.  (In a way, that's a form of disseminated zoster.) Whatever the cause, I suggest you call the dermatologist's office immediately (or in the morning) and make sure they know what you are experiencing. My guess is they'll find a way to see you in the next day or two instead of waiting until next week.

None of this makes me concerned in the least about HIV. And I still doubt it has anything to do with your recent sexual exposure.
Avatar universal
Thank you. I'm trying to collect information about my medical history (not sure if I had chickenpox or the vaccine during childhood). But in either case, seemingly dependable webpages like http://hivinsite.ucsf.edu/insite?page=kb-00&doc=kb-05-03-01 mention that "Zoster may occur at any time in the course of HIV-induced immunosuppression, and may be the first clinical clue to suggest undiagnosed HIV infection. An episode of zoster in a young individual warrants consideration of underlying HIV infection. "

*Keeping my fingers crossed for the test tomorrow (though it'll be a 4-week test from the last incident)*
Avatar universal
"Zoster may occur at any time in the course of HIV-induced immunosuppression, and may be the first clinical clue to suggest undiagnosed HIV infection. An episode of zoster in a young individual warrants consideration of underlying HIV infection."

Standard medical practice says exactly the same thing about any of 30 or more common illnesses. Unexplained fever, an episode of pneumonia, and many others -- all would "warrant consideration of underlying HIV infection". Trust me on this, I know what I'm talking about:  For every thousand people presenting with the medical problems you describe, no more than one of them (probably none) would turn out to have a newly acquired HIV infection.

You are spending too much time on line, and lack the medical training necessary to put what you find in context, and your anxieties are further inflating whatever bad news you think you read and ignoring the reassuring bits. I stand by all my preceding comments and advice and suggest you re-read everything.

That's my last comment unless and until you want to report back after you have seen the dermatologist and/or have had HIV testing -- which, by the way, you could do now with 100% reliable results with an HIV combo (antigen-antibody) test.
Avatar universal
Sorry about last comment -- I see you're testing tomorrow. Have the combo test.
Avatar universal
Just returned from the GP appointment. On the positive side, he said that he doesn't see these rashes as HIV rashes, which are more concentrated on face, neck and chest area and are generally accompanied with mouth sores/ulcers. Otherwise he said that he can't obviously rule out anything until tests do so, but his initial assessment is that it might not be HIV.

Gave 10 tubes of blood for all sorts of STD/STI/other tests, including 4th gen AG/AB HIV test (which he said should be very accurate even at 2 weeks). Results will be out early next week. *fingers crossed* :)
Avatar universal
Hello HowardH,

I'm still waiting on my test results. While I haven't posted anything here (coz I understand I shouldn't bug you much) but have been going through heights of anxiety.

Since yesterday, my occipital and cervical (the ones on the rear neck, back of head) lymph nodes are visibly swollen. I've checked online about what infections could cause those and don't seem to have either. (I can't feel any other nodes). Also, I woke up with a mild night sweat today.

How much should I be worried with these??
Avatar universal
No comment until you report your test results.
Avatar universal
Hmm..I’m waiting..but the more I read about ARS rashes, the more they seem like those (rather than shingles- I was told I never had chickenpox).

Even though they spread a little on arms and thighs, they stopped there. They were majorly on both sides of the trunk, with reddish base and raised spots and stopped progressing by itself in 10 days: and I’ve been reading just about same things about ARS rash from experienced medical professionals everywhere.

I understand that you might not reply till I have the results, but just that I’m **** scared and want to share this with someone (and I have no one to talk this with)..
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