Shingles - Symptoms

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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: Wicked disease, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 15

On Christmas Eve I had sores on the right side of my scalp. Thinking it was spider bites, I thought it will resolve on its own. However, 3 days later, the sores (vesicles) appeared on the right side of my scalp to above my ear and down my neck. I went to my doctor who diagnosed shingles right away. I had my shingles shot 7 years ago. My doctor said the shingles shot does not totally prevent the disease. If you get the shingles, the duration and severity are decreased by over 50 percent.

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Comment from: tammi, Female (Patient) Published: January 19

In April 2015 I had Bell's palsy or Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Since then I have had vertigo and now shingles on the back of my neck. My shingles has not produced a rash or blisters, just itchy burning pain. Months prior to the Bell's palsy my ear would tingle and itch, still does from time to time. I get little ticks like electric shocks in various places, mostly upper torso. I am just about at my wits' end. I had the shingles vaccine and still is all this is happening. My doctor and neurologist don't seem to know what to do. I am tired of being exhausted and dizzy.

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