Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It can cause a painful rash of blisters that usually appears on one side of your body. While shingles can be easily recognizable, it’s not always easy to distinguish what can be mistaken for shingles.
Lyme disease is a severe and potentially debilitating health issue that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. It is essential to be aware of this condition’s signs, symptoms, and potential treatments.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of Lyme can be confused with those of shingles. This is why it is crucial to understand the differences between the two. This comprehensive guide will discuss the similarities and differences between Lyme disease and shingles, options to identify and diagnose, and what is available for each condition.
By understanding the signs and symptoms of both of these conditions, you can better prepare yourself to seek the medical help you need to manage your health and take action if you develop either.
What Are Shingles?
Shingles occur most often in middle-aged and older individuals and are more common in those with weakened immune systems. The immune system is a network of cells and organs fighting disease and infection. When the immune system is compromised, the body fails to fight off infections and may even mistakenly attack healthy tissues, such as skin cells.
This is known as an autoimmune disease. In the case of shingles, the immune system produces antibodies that attack and damage the cells that transmit pain to the brain (nociceptors). The result is an outbreak of painful blisters and rash.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Shingles?
An itchy or burning sensation on one side of the body (often the chest, abdomen, or the side of the face or head). When the infection is in its early stages, most people experience tingling, itching, or burning in the affected area.
A feeling of pain or soreness often follows this. The pain then evolves into a rash of red, fluid-filled blisters that break and crust over after a few weeks. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.
Rash develops a reddish, blistery rash on the skin that may be painful and covered in fluid-filled blisters. The rash often appears in one stripe on either the right or left side of the body but may also appear on both sides simultaneously. The rash may accompany headaches, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
What Can be Mistaken for Shingles?
Many of the signs and symptoms of shingles can be mistaken for other illnesses or conditions, such as Lyme disease. And while Lyme disease is not often mistaken for shingles, it can be hard to differentiate the two conditions. More often, what can be mistaken for shingles is a different type of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or multiple sclerosis.
Here are three conditions that can be mistaken for shingles:
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteriarelia burgdorferi and is typically spread through tick bites. The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a circular red “bullseye” rash near the tick bite site.
This rash is usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, and joint pain. It can be confused with shingles because both cause a red rash.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. This infection can be transmitted by the bite of the black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick. The black-legged tick is frequently found in wooded areas of the continental United States, while the western black-legged tick, which can also transmit the disease, is most common in California.
When the tick bites a person, it injects the bacteria, then travels to the nearest lymph node. The bacteria can travel to the rest of the body, including the skin, joints, and heart.
Most people who contract Lyme develop a rash, joint pain, and flu-like symptoms. In around 10% of cases, the infection can spread to the central nervous system, leading to extreme fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, and an inability to concentrate.
It is also important to know that Lyme disease can also be contracted congenitally (i.e., as a condition that is present at the time of a baby’s birth).
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lyme disease?
Chronic Lyme disease can result in long-term symptoms such as muscle and joint pain, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. Some people also develop what is known as “post-Lyme Syndrome” – a condition where Lyme disease symptoms persist for months or even years after the infection has been treated.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms associated with Lyme disease:
- Headaches, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes
- Extreme fatigue
- Poor concentration or a feeling of being mentally foggy
- Joint pain or swelling, particularly in the knees
- A circular red “bullseye” rash near the tick bite site
Skin infection is caused by a type of bacteria called staphylococci. It is most common in infants and young children and can cause red, s caly, itchy skin rashes.
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition that often causes patches of itchy, scaly red, or brown rashes. These rashes can appear anywhere on the body but are often mistaken for shingles because they look similar to the ones caused by shingles.
The shingles rash can look very similar to what’s seen in atopic dermatitis. The main difference is that shingles tend to cause a single stripe or patch of rash, while atopic dermatitis can cause multiple patches all over the body.
Cellulitis is a bacterial infection that affects your skin’s and underlying tissue’s deeper layers. It appears as a red patch on the skin and may feel warm or tender to the touch. This can be mistaken for shingles because it causes a red rash and is often accompanied by fever, chills, and fatigue.
The disease control and prevention (CDC) recommends seeking medical care immediately if you think you have any of the conditions mentioned above. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential to ensure a successful outcome.
How to Differentiate Between Lyme Disease and Shingles
To figure out if you have shingles or Lyme disease, you first need to note the timing. Ticks transmit Lyme disease, whereas shingles spread through bodily contact with an infected person. Pay attention to how soon your condition developed after either potential contact with someone infected with shingles or time spent in a potentially tick-heavy area.
The symptoms of each condition can also vary depending on the infected age group.
If you have a rash that appears on the sides of your body and is accompanied by joint pain and poor concentration, you are more likely to have Lyme disease. If you have a rash on one side of the body that is accompanied by an extreme itching sensation and pain, you are more likely to have shingles.
Diagnostic Tests for Lyme Disease
If you believe you have Lyme disease, the first step in getting tested is to see your primary care doctor or general practitioner.
Your doctor may request that a blood test be performed to detect the presence of antibodies to B. burgdorferi. These antibodies do not indicate that you have Lyme disease but that your body has been exposed to the bacteria.
If your doctor believes you have Lyme disease, a second blood test may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. This test is known as an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and can detect the presence of B. burgdorferi antibodies.
Borrelia bacteria, the cause of Lyme disease, can mimic what you would experience if you had a case of shingles. Therefore it’s essential to be aware of the symptoms and seek appropriate medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.
If you are experiencing symptoms of Lyme disease that persist despite antibiotic treatment, your doctor may decide to perform a blood culture check to detect the presence of B. burgdorferi.
Chicken pox, atopic dermatitis, and cellulitis can all be mistaken for shingles due to their similar appearance. Other tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease can also cause a rash, but the timing and symptomatology of this condition can help differentiate it from shingles.
Treatments for Lyme Disease
Note: Please consult with your Doctor first to gain professional advice on your direction with any treatment plan.
Antibiotic Treatment – The preferred treatment for Lyme disease is antibiotics, which can eliminate B. burgdorferi from your body.
Anti-inflammatory Drugs – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may treat joint pain associated with Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease Vaccination – The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites, including wearing long-sleeved shirts and insect repellents. A vaccine for Lyme disease has been available since 1996, but only about 25% of people at risk have received the vaccine. Lyme develops a rash that looks very similar to what’s seen in shingles.
An Alternative, Non-Invasive Option
The WAVE 1 is a bioenergetic wearable, launched in 2019 and engineered to support chronic Lyme disease management. This easy on-the-go wearable for your arm or leg has been designed to optimize cellular communication and stimulate biological competency with light-carried frequency technology. The device is tailored to repair, restore and strengthen the body’s intelligence with optimal cellular function, leading to a more empowered immune system.
WAVE 1 delivers the Frequency Support Program, which includes the following sessions: Detox, Lyme Complete (Lyme, co-infections, bacteria, fungal (mold), viruses, and parasites), as well as Stress & Anxiety.
WAVE 1 clients typically report a better state of well-being, fewer mood swings, improved sleep, better digestion, sharpened mental acuity and cognitive function, and decreased pain levels and increased energy as they move through their day. In an effort to lessen the symptoms of Lyme and co-infections, learn more about the WAVE 1 bioenergetic wearable and its Frequency Support Program at FREmedica.com.
What might appear to be shingles could be one of these other conditions. If you believe you have been exposed to any of these infections, you should consult your doctor immediately for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
With proper diagnosis and timely treatment, these conditions are manageable and can be treated effectively.
The signs and symptoms of shingles and Lyme disease may be similar, but the timing of their appearance and the age group likely to be infected can help you differentiate between the two conditions.
If you think you have been exposed to ticks and experience any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment to see your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not you have been exposed to ticks and, if so, whether you should receive testing for Lyme disease.