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Understanding Shingles -- Symptoms

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.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

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."

UpToDate.

 

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