Shingles - Experience

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What is shingles? What does shingles look like?

Shingles is a disease characterized by a painful, blistering skin rash that affects one side of the body, typically the face or torso. This condition may also be referred to as herpes zoster, or simply zoster. There are approximately 1 million estimated cases per year in the U.S., with almost one out of every three people developing shingles at some point in their lifetime. Though most people who develop shingles will only have a single episode, there are some who develop recurrent cases of shingles. Shingles is more common in older individuals and in those with weakened immune systems.

Pictures of shingles (herpes zoster) on the face
What does shingles look like?

The characteristic rash of shingles typically appears after an initial period of burning, tingling, itching, or stinging in the affected area. After a few days, the rash then appears in a stripe or band-like pattern along a nerve path called a dermatome, affecting only one side of the body without crossing the midline (to the other side). The rash erupts as clusters of small red patches that develop into blisters, which may appear similar to chickenpox. The blisters then break open and slowly begin to dry and eventually crust over.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: ScarlettandRhett, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: April 07

Two weeks ago Saturday, I got a little twitch in my right flank. I noticed a small bit of itching, but thought it was a bug bite. By Monday night I couldn't breathe I was in so much pain and was throwing up. Since I had had a kidney stone before (same side) I thought that was what it was. I had my husband take me to the emergency room and I had CT scan blood and urine test. No kidney issue. Still no rash and morphine drip barely touched the pain. They sent me home with a flank pain release. I went to my obstetrician to see if it was my fibroid/uterus. She suggested we schedule a hysterectomy! Next morning my right side from my spine to my groin were itchy and, ta da, rash and we knew it was shingles. The deep kidney pain started to get better. Now I just have a slightly itchy rash. Glad it happened on my right side, since I already have little feeling on that side. I cancelled the biopsy and the scheduled total abdominal hysterectomy! If only I had looked deeper into shingles! I never would have known about the pain it can cause.

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Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 27

I was given a vaccine for chicken pox (varicella) a month ago, and immediately broke out in a shingles type rash along my waist and abdomen. It is a month now and I am suffering from fatigue, depression and the shingles rash looks pretty bad. I was prescribed anti-viral medication today by my doctor. I had to have a vaccine as I had never contracted any diseases in childhood, and nearly died from measles in 1989.

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