The main signs and symptoms of shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash that causes blisters. The virus that causes shingles can be dormant for many years and then suddenly reappear during periods of stress or illness.
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, see your physician immediately:
- intense pain that’s not relieved by medication
- fever over 100 F (37 C)
- tingling, numbness or burning on the skin of your face and scalp near where you have a rash
Shingles rashes typically develop on just one side of the body, most commonly at the following areas:
Early symptoms of shingles
The first few symptoms of shingles can be felt before the more obvious symptoms appear. These symptoms could include:
- generally feeling sick
- muscle ache
- excessive tiredness
- upset stomach
What does shingles rashes look like?
The shingles rash usually starts as a patch of red, inflamed skin. This patch may have fluid-filled blisters that eventually turn into scabs. Shingles rashes can vary in shape and size from person to person but they’re typically shaped like bands or strips around the area where it started.
Shingles can also occur on your face – mostly affecting areas such as your nose, forehead and cheeks. In some cases shingles will be present only in one eye instead of both eyes if you get shingles on your face. These types of shingles are referred to by doctors as “ocular herpes simplex.” Even though this type is relatively rarer than shingles occurring outside on your body, it can be very serious and needs to be treated immediately.
Less common types of shingles
Zoster sine herpete (ZSH)
Also known as shingles without the rash, ZSH symptoms can include:
- sensitivity to touch
- burning sensation
- numbness of a localized area
In extremely rare cases, shingles can occur in the brain, lungs, even in the nervous system. Symptoms can include:
- muscle weakness
- vision problems, including blindness
- difficulty swallowing and speaking due to paralysis of facial muscles or vocal cords
Overview of what shingles are
Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) develops when your body’s immune system becomes weakened by illness or stress and allows a virus that has been dormant in your nerve tissue since childhood to resurface.
Shingles most typically occurs among older adults who have impaired immunity due to health conditions such as cancer, aging, or diabetes; however any person of any age with an undermined immune system could develop shingles at some point during his/her lifetime.
Anyone suffering from shingles will experience tingling, itching or pain in the area of their skin where shingles symptoms are starting to appear. These shingle symptoms often start out as a rash with fluid-filled blisters that develop crusty scabs.
How do you get shingles?
Shingles can be transmitted to another person through direct contact with shingles blisters or the fluid from shingles blisters. Shingles can be contagious and you should not touch shingle rash lesions without proper protection until all scabs have fallen off of your skin.
If a pregnant woman has shingles during her pregnancy, she may transmit shingles virus to her child within the uterus at birth causing an infant herpes zoster infection (also called neonatal varicella).
Who is most likely to get shingles?
Anyone who has had chicken pox in childhood could develop adult shingles later on in life if their immune system becomes compromised by illness or stress. Anyone whose immune system is weakened by medications or health conditions such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes and heart disease is more likely to suffer shingles symptoms.
How can shingles be prevented?
Since shingles cannot currently be cured, prevention is very important in order to reduce the risk of developing complications from shingles infection. If you have had chicken pox and your immunity remains strong with a healthy diet and lifestyle then shingle virus will never resurface again. However, if your immune system becomes weakened through illness or stress it could bring dormant shingle virus back out of hibernation so that way it may reappear later on as adult shingles rash blisters outbreaks which are contagious.
Although there’s no cure for shingles once an outbreak occurs, shingles can be prevented with shingle vaccine. The Shingrix vaccine has been approved by FDA and CDC to prevent shingles in adults over 50 years old.
Shingrix shingles vaccine also significantly reduces the risk of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is when shingle symptoms persist long after your shingle rash blisters have crusted over.
Although shingles cannot currently be cured there are treatments available to help reduce the severity of shingle symptoms and speed up recovery time after developing shingles rash blisters.
People who develop shingle symptoms should consult their physician immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment recommendations. This may include:
- antiviral medications to shorten duration of shingles outbreaks
- topical steroids
- pain medication used to temporarily relieve intense nerve pain
Once all scabs have fallen off you will no longer transmit herpes zoster virus so if your immune system is strong enough it will never resurface shingles symptoms again.
Shingles vaccine is available for adults over the age of 60 who have never had chicken pox before. If an individual has already developed adult zoster rashes lesions, then there is no need for them to receive shingle shots since these viruses are incurable once they have shingles symptoms and blister blisters lesions.
Shingle vaccine shingle shots can be given to individuals who have had shingles in the past. However, these same shingle vaccines should not be administered if you are currently experiencing symptoms such as tingling numbness burning on your skin of face or scalp because this will cause more harm than good.