What are the Symptoms of Shingles?

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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 May 2019
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Shingles, the common name for the virus varicella zoster, is introduced to our system along with chickenpox. Most people carry this virus and it stays dormant; but for 10 - 20 percent of the population, it erupts during weakened immunity or increased anxiety. Shingles brings mild to severe pain, some flu-like symptoms, and most recognizably, blisters in a line or wedge on only one side of the body. Most shingles outbreaks subside in two to three weeks.

The first signs of shingles, on the first to fourth day, are headache, upset stomach, fever, chills, and fatigue, similar to coming down with a cold or flu. By the third to fourth day, a certain body part will begin to ache, prickle, or hurt, with tender, sensitive skin accompanied by redness or a bumpy rash. This could occur on the face, torso, back, and hips, or even the neck, arms, and legs. Around the fifth day, blistering on the skin develops along a nerve, which is why the shape of the rash is always a stripe, line, or triangle. The nerve carries pain to the affected area, varying from a dull ache, to intense, shooting spasms. At this point, a physician can usually make a correct diagnosis.


From here, the blisters worsen over the next week, filling with pus and weeping. At this stage, it is important to keep the skin clean and dry, even applying compresses and wrapping the area in bandages to prevent a bacterial infection. Soon, from ten days to two weeks of the onset of shingles, the blisters will drain and scab over as they begin to heal. The pain will continue during this period, gradually lessening as the scabs diminish. Longer, more serious breakouts, especially in those with severely reduced immunity such as AIDS patients, might cause swollen lymph nodes and a continued cycle of blistering, developing postherpetic neuralgia.

While shingles usually has to run its course, you should seek immediate medical attention if the rash erupts anywhere near your eyes, ears, mouth, or nose. These extremely sensitive areas can suffer lasting damage if not treated early, even causing temporary or permanent blindness. A doctor can prescribe anti-viral and anti-bacterial medication to make the bout as mild as possible.


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Post 13

Post 12

Is it possible that shingles appear first in the back, then in the arms, gradually making its appearance on the knees? And now, it has terrified me by appearing on my ears. Do I need to worry? I am taking acyclovir. The rashes have started in the last five days.

Post 11

Hopefully nobody will get this anymore. It is not fun. At the time I had my first outbreak, I read a lot on the internet and what I found really useful was Listerine. I applied it with a cotton ball on the affected area and wait before I put clothes on. It really works!

Post 10

I had shingles in January. It wasn't a bad breakout, just a few spots on right side of the body. I started on antiviral medicine and over the next three weeks, did clear up. But now since then I have had an achy pain feeling in my arm and leg on that same side I had the shingles. But the breakout wasn't on my arm or leg. It was on my neck and up into my hairline. Is this normal?

Post 9

I had the shingles last summer and it was the worst pain ever. I had it on my back (left side) along the side of my breast. I had a mild case because I got on Valtrex as soon as I saw the blisters (three days). I had heart attack pains and back pain. It was unreal and hard to describe. It was awful. I thought my back was acting up from the mattress, but the heart attack feeling threw me off. I woke up with heavy pressure on my chest and chest pains all day long. I then saw the blisters. My co-workers said it was spider bites. I knew it wasn't. It was too painful for that

unless black widows bit me all night.

I googled it and had a feeling it was shingles. I went in to see the doctor, thank god I did. It was shingles, not bug bites. I got on my meds ASAP. The blisters healed up quickly and the pain as well (two to three weeks, though), but I felt sick to my stomach and had fever a month and a half after it cleared up. And this all happened the day before my vacation.

I had to drive 20 hours to see my family. It was awful, but I made the best of it. My family understood, but had to stay away from everyone. I never want it again. And mine was due to extreme stress. I am so afraid it will return, since my job is stressful. I am stressing out every day, thanks to work. If you experience the same thing, go in and have those blisters evaluated. If not, you will get an extreme case and it will take forever to heal. I don't suffer any post pain. Thank god I went in.

Post 8

@lighth0se33 – You could get the shingles vaccine. However, you have to wait until you are fifty, if you aren't already.

My mom's doctor didn't recommend getting it until she was over 60, but people who are 50 are eligible for it. It isn't a guarantee that you won't get shingles, but it's better than nothing.

Also, if you do get shingles but you've had the vaccine, you might not have it quite as bad as most people. It's supposed to help you recover faster and have a less severe form of shingles.

Post 7

I wish that I'd had the chicken pox vaccine, because shingles terrifies me. I had chicken pox when I was nine, but there was no vaccine back then.

My aunt got shingles a few years ago, and she said it was the most pain she's ever experienced. It lasted so long, too!

Is there anything I can do to avoid getting shingles one day? I try to keep my anxiety to a minimum, but will that be enough?

Post 6

@Oceana – It's not so much for the depression as for the pain. My friend had a shingles rash, and treatment for the pain involved taking a low dose of antidepressants.

These drugs do something with the chemicals in your brain to help it release natural painkillers. High doses treat depression, but low doses can treat pain that is expected to last several weeks or longer.

She was surprised at first that her doctor was prescribing her antidepressants, but he explained that she would only need to take them as long as the pain persisted. So, it wouldn't be something she'd be reliant on for the rest of her life.

Post 5

Why would a doctor give someone with symptoms of the shingles virus antidepressants? I know that it must get a person down to have this rash and pain, but are antidepressants really the route you should take?

Post 4

uzumba2 - I was just reading up on that because my husband has had shingles several times now and I thought you could only get it once.

Well, apparently this is not the case. The chances of getting shingles again once you've had an outbreak of it is about one in three. This is what Dr. Barbara Yawn, Dir. of Research at Olmstead Med. Center, has pointed out.

It's really important to know the symptoms of shingles in adults so you don't waste time getting treatment. Treatment can significantly reduce the length of the shingles virus as well as reduce the pain associated with it.

Post 3

The signs and symptoms of shingles are pretty obvious. Anyone who breaks out in a rash that turns into painful blisters will likely head to the doctor for relief.

The question I have is this: How many times in your life can shingles appear?

Post 2

When I had shingles I found it best to use an anti-itch cream and wash the blisters gently with soap and water twice a day. It also helps to heal the blisters faster if you allow them to air dry after bathing and do not wrap or cover them.

Post 1

There are several different treatment options for shingles. The first being, antiviral medications that would be prescribed by your doctor. The second being over the counter pain medications or topical creams to relieve long term pain and rashes.

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