Shingles - Symptoms

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What were the symptoms of your shingles?

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What are shingles symptoms and signs?

Shingles usually starts with burning, tingling, itching, or stinging in the region where the rash will ultimately develop. Sometimes, this pain can be severe and individuals may complain of extremely sensitive skin. This discomfort typically occurs a few days before the rash develops. In rare instances, the characteristic shingles rash will not appear (a condition called zoster sine herpete).

Often, individuals may also experience other associated symptoms such as

  • headache,
  • fever and chills,
  • malaise,
  • nausea,
  • body aches,
  • swollen lymph glands.

A few days after the skin discomfort begins (or rarely, several weeks afterward), the characteristic rash of shingles will appear. It typically begins as clusters of small red patches that eventually develop into small blisters. These fluid-filled blisters eventually break open, and the small sores begin to slowly dry and crust over. The crusts usually fall off after several weeks, and the shingles rash typically clears up after approximately four weeks. Though uncommon, in cases of a severe rash, skin discoloration or scarring of the skin is possible.

The location of the shingles rash can vary. Though shingles can appear almost anywhere on the body, it most commonly affects the torso and the face (including the eyes, ears, and mouth). It is often present in the area of the ribcage or the waist. This characteristic rash is in a stripe or band-like pattern that affects only one side of the body (the right or the left), and it usually does not cross over the midline. In some cases, the rash can affect adjacent dermatomes, and rarely it can affect three or more dermatomes (a condition termed disseminated zoster). Disseminated zoster generally occurs only in individuals with a compromised immune system.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Starling81, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: August 05

My shingles pain started as a slight internal irritation when I would breathe in. It felt like I slept wrong or strained something. I also had a patch under my arm that felt itchy/sensitive deep under the skin. Slowly over a week the pain increased and spread from my breast all around to my back. It hurt with every breath. I went to my doctor who gave me a steroid shot and I fully expected to get better. Instead I got much worse and 2 days later I woke up and noticed the rash. I immediately went back in and got the shingles diagnosis and medicines. The pain was so intense for about a week I could not sleep through the night, I had to keep ice on my back/side 24 hours a day. Slowly the deep gnawing internal pain went away and I could breathe again, however I had a burning/itching below the skin that was intense. I have had migraines, brief fever, throwing up, dizzy spells, muscle spasms and I felt extremely ill for about 2 weeks. As the rash is clearing up the itching/burning has intensified and I am hoping it will go away soon. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy.

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Comment from: ginah, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 09

I am 45 years old and I started having itching and numbness in my right hip and around the front and into my groin area. I thought I had a pinched nerve for about 10 days. One day a friend suggested that maybe I had shingles but I laughed it off because there was no sign of a rash. On about day 10, I found 3 bumps that looks like bites but they were really irritated at the very top of my hip. Right then I knew it was shingles. I waited a couple of days just to be sure. It got worse with burning pain in the bumps and I found more bumps in that area. I didn't mention my suspicions to my doctor but he said he was pretty sure it was shingles even though the bumps weren't really blistering. They might have blistered just a bit. He put me on Valtrex. The next 2 days were very painful in my entire hip and in my groin. I felt sick and wiped out. The next few days I could feel improvement. It has been about 12 days since my rash started and I am mostly better, I think! I get a little bit of pain now and then but I get more itching than anything. I also get strange bruising in my groin, like maybe it's from nerve endings. I plan to ask my doctor about it at my follow up appointment in 3 days.

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