Shingles - What Happens
caused by the same virus that causes
chickenpox. After an attack of chickenpox, the virus
remains in the tissues in your nerves. As you get older, or if you have an
illness or stress that weakens your
immune system, the virus may reappear in the form of
You may first have a headache, flu-like symptoms
(usually without a fever), and sensitivity to light, followed by itching,
tingling, or pain in the area where a
rash may develop . The pain usually occurs several days
or weeks before a rash appears on the left or right side of your body. The rash
will be in a band, a strip, or a small area. In 3 to 5 days, the rash turns
into fluid-filled blisters that ooze and crust over. The rash heals in about 2
to 4 weeks, although you may have long-lasting scars.
A few people won't get a rash, or the rash will be mild.
people who get shingles will not get the disease again.
Complications of shingles
Delaying or not getting medical treatment may increase your risk for complications. Complications of shingles include:
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is pain
that does not go away within 1 month. It may last for months or even years
after shingles heals. It is more common in people
age 50 and older and in people who have a weakened immune system due to another
disease, such as
- Disseminated zoster, which is a
blistery rash that spreads over a large portion of the body and can affect the
heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, joints, and intestinal tract. Infection may
spread to nerves that control movement, which may cause temporary
- Cranial nerve complications. If shingles affects the
nerves originating in the brain (cranial nerves), complications may include:
pain, and loss of feeling in one or both eyes. The infection may threaten your
vision. A rash may appear on the side and tip of the nose (Hutchinson's
- Intense ear pain, a rash around the ear, mouth, face, neck,
and scalp, and loss of movement in facial nerves (Ramsay Hunt syndrome). Other
symptoms may include hearing loss, dizziness, and ringing in the ears. Loss of
taste and dry mouth and eyes may also occur.
- Inflammation, and
possibly blockage, of blood vessels, which may lead to
- Scarring and skin
- Bacterial infection of the
- Muscle weakness in the area of the infected skin before,
during, or after the episode of shingles.