Table of Contents
- Shingles (herpes zoster) facts
- What is shingles? What does shingles look like?
- What causes shingles?
- What are risk factors for shingles?
- What is the contagious period for shingles?
- What are shingles symptoms and signs?
- How do health care professionals diagnose shingles?
- What types of health care professionals treat shingles?
- What are medical treatments for shingles?
- Are there any home remedies for shingles?
- What is the duration of a shingles outbreak?
- What are complications of shingles?
- What are complications of shingles? (Part 2)
- What are complications of shingles? (Part 3)
- What can be done for recurrent shingles?
- What is the prognosis of shingles?
- Is it possible to prevent shingles with a vaccine?
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 visible 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
- fever and chills,
- body aches, and
- 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 scab over. The crusts usually fall off after several weeks, and the shingles rash typically clears up after approximately two to 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 (an area of skin that is supplied by a single spinal nerve), 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.