Understanding Shingles -- Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Sabrina Felson, MD on April 22, 2021

What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?

The symptoms of shingles include:

  • Localized burning, tingling, itching, prickling pain that starts days days to weeks before the rash appears. The pain varies by person but can be constant or come and go.

  • Days after these symptoms appear, a group of fluid-filled blisters appears on a red, inflamed base of skin; the blisters typically crust over in a week.

  • The rash may be accompanied by fever, fatigue, or headache.

  • The rash will not cross the mid-line of your body.

  • You may have swollen lymph nodes on one side of your body

Call Your Doctor Right Away If:

  • You suspect an outbreak of shingles is beginning. If you take antiviral drugs in the early stages, you may shorten the course of the infection.
  • You have the rash anywhere on your face. This puts you at risk of herpes zoster in the eye, which can lead to corneal damage and vision problems.
  • The affected area becomes secondarily infected with bacteria (indicated by spreading redness, swelling, a high fever, and pus); antibiotics can help halt the spread of bacterial infection but not the shingles itself.
  • Your rash lasts longer than 10 days without improvement.
  • The pain becomes too great to bear; your doctor may prescribe stronger painkillers or a nerve block.
  • You have shingles and are in contact with someone who has a weakened immune system.

  • You develop any strange symptoms with the shingles rash, such as vertigo, buzzing in your ears, rapid onset weakness, double vision, face droop, or confusion.


Show Sources


National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke: "Shingles. Seek Early Treatment."

Mayo Clinic Health Letter, p7, June 2002.

Oxman M. New England Journal of Medicine, June 2, 2005.

Douglas M. Drug Safety,  2004.

WebMD Health News: "Shingles Vaccine to Be Routine at 60."

FDA: "FDA Licenses New Vaccine to Reduce Older Americans' Risk of Shingles."



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