Ali Fedotowsky-Manno revealed she was recently diagnosed with shingles in a candid Instagram post this week. Fedotowsky-Manno is sharing her personal story—including photos—and general information in an attempt to raise awareness about the common condition, which is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and results in painful rashes.
Fedotowsky-Manno said that she first tried to hide the rashes that were appearing on her forehead and eye area (wearing sunglasses in her Instagram posts this week, for instance) to shield herself from social media speculation. But she decided to speak up in the hopes of helping other people get diagnosed early like her—especially younger people.
“I was diagnosed with shingles,” Fedotowsky-Manno wrote. “I don’t really know why I wanted to hide it. I think it’s mostly because I didn’t want the added stress or pressure of the Internet while I was trying to rest and heal.” The Bachelorette alum continued, “I’m sharing now because I hope my story will help others detect it early,” and “early detection is key in hopefully lessening the severity and duration of shingles.”
While shingles is “relatively common” in older adults, as Fedotowsky-Manno notes, it is a misconception that younger people don’t also suffer from the condition. “I didn’t even think it was possible to get it at my age,” wrote Fedotowsky-Manno, who is 36. “But based on my DMs, I’m realizing it’s getting more and more common in younger people.”
In the post, Fedotowsky-Manno shared photos and videos documenting the progression of her shingles symptoms, which typically include pain, burning, tingling, sensitivity, itching, red rashes, and crusting blisters on a small area of skin, per the Mayo Clinic. For Fedotowsky, the very first signs were pretty subtle and included small bumps, itchiness, and tingling on her forehead. “I remember I kept itching my head and felt this electricity underneath my skin (my nerves acting up),” said Fedotowsky, who included in the post a video of her forehead that she sent to her dermatologist.
After a FaceTime call and consultation, Fedotowsky-Manno’s dermatologist diagnosed her with shingles and started her on treatment. “I am soooo grateful that she diagnosed me early and got me on the proper medication,” Fedotowsky-Manno wrote. Fedotowsky-Manno’s symptoms started to get worse and affect her vision, even though her doctor caught it early on. “So early, that it was a day before I even had a tiny little pimple-like spot on my face, which I wouldn’t have thought twice about,” she wrote, and “days before I had multiple spots that ended up causing swelling and blurred vision in my eye.”
Fedotowsky-Manno is indeed lucky. Shingles usually only impacts a small area on one side of your body, and most commonly shows up on the torso, according to the Mayo Clinic. But sometimes it can appear on one side of the face, neck, or eye area. And shingles pain and rashes around the eye, if left untreated, can cause a painful eye infection and lead to permanent eye damage, the Mayo Clinic says.
Fedotowsky-Manno is correct that early detection and treatment can help lessen the duration and severity of a shingles infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. The sooner you get treatment, which includes prescription antiviral drugs and potentially pain medication, the more likely you are to recover quickly and avoid complications. (The most common complication, per the Mayo Clinic, is postherpetic neuralgia, or pain that continues after the skin clears up due to damaged nerve fibers.)
The illness occurs in people who have previously had chickenpox (the varicella-zoster virus), the Mayo Clinic explains. After having chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nervous system and can be reactivated years down the line, causing shingles. Scientists aren’t totally sure what triggers shingles, but being older and having a weakened immune system are two big risk factors, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health.
Fedotowsky-Manno, who was also recently diagnosed with iron deficiency anemia, believes that stress was likely a trigger for her shingles. The NIA explains that since stress can temporarily weaken your immune system, it can indeed also raise your risk for illnesses like shingles. Fedotowsky-Manno explained that she first avoided the added stress of social media speculation about her face rashes for that very reason.
Fedotowsky-Manno appears optimistic and is trying to take it easy as much as possible while she’s on the mend. “Needless to say, I’m trying to limit the stress in my life and hoping my vision clears up,” she wrote. “Today the swelling is down a lot so I’m grateful for that!” Fedotowsky-Manno also plans to write a blog post sharing the gradual daily progression of her symptoms. Her hope is to “help others who are frantically googling ‘shingles in your 30’s’ out there right now and not finding much information.”