Shingles Symptoms, Causes, Stages, and Treatment

Shingles Symptoms

Shingles are more commonly known as herpes zoster or zoster. This is more of a viral disease that is characterized by painful eruptions on the skin. The blisters or eruptions are seen in the localized region. The rash is first seen as a band on the right or left side of the face. The rash causes a tingling sensation in the affected region. The tingling sensation may be followed by headache or fatigue. The whole episode may heal within two weeks of occurrence. Nevertheless, folks often develop nerve pain which may last several months. The rash occurs widely in people with low immune function. In severe cases, shingles symptoms lead to a loss in vision.

Shingles symptoms have a chickenpox connection

Shingles and chickenpox disease are caused by the same virus, varicella-zoster. After the issue of chickenpox gets resolved, shingles symptoms may start to show up. The inactive virus reactivates traveling from the nerves to the surface of the skin. People in their old age or ones with poor immunity are very much likely to get shingles. But, the real cause of the reactivation of the virus is still unclear. The diagnosis is done based on the symptoms.

Shingles on legs

Those with poor immune function can get shingles that spread throughout the body. Some folks get shingles on legs or even liver and brain. The primary skin lesions quickly spread to the adjacent areas. There can be more than 20 lesions outside the primary affected area. When the condition spreads to internal organs, it becomes potentially lethal.

Causes of shingles symptoms

Primarily, the virus varicella-zoster causes this skin condition. Anyone who had got chickenpox may develop shingles. The virus enters the nervous system and there, it lies dormant for years. But, it is important to understand that not everyone who got chickenpox will develop shingles.

People who get cold sores and genital herpes are more prone to developing this condition. It is due to this reason, shingles is more commonly known as herpes zoster.

Risk factors

People who have got chickenpox in their lifetime could developshingles symptoms. Jotted down are certain risk factors for developing shingles.

  • Above the age of 50: Shingles is more common in people over the age of 50. The risks tend to increase with age in folks. Some studies suggest that people as old as 80 years could develop this condition.
  • Certain other diseases: Pre-existing medical conditions do weaken our immune function further. HIV AIDS can enhance the chances of developing shingles.
  • Ongoing cancer treatment: Chemotherapy lowers resistance to diseases. This may trigger conditions like shingles.
  • Certain medications: Certain drugs and medications can put us to the risks of developing shingles. Prolonged intake of steroids can give way to shingles.

Early stages of shingles symptoms

Early shingles symptoms may include fatigue and fever. You might also experience a burning sensation in the localized region. After a couple of days, blisters start to show up. The very first sign is that you may notice a pink-colored blotchy patch. These patches often start to cluster. Folks often report a shooting pain around the region. But, in the early stage, shingles is never contagious. So, the people around do not need to be afraid of the condition. In this blog, let us talk at length about the very first signs of shingles.


Eruptions and rashes quickly develop blisters filled with fluids. They look strikingly close to chickenpox rashes. Blisters often appear in localized regions. In severe cases only, they start to spread. Rashes are common on your face and torso. In the rarest of cases, they may show up on your lower abdomen. Remain vaccinated and you won’t ever transmit the disease.

Crusting and scabbing

Shingles rashes erupt and eventually start to ooze out. After a while, they start to become yellowish. They even flatten over time. The blisters take a week or two to crust over entirely. The pain starts to ease with each passing day. But, it is important to differentiate between the pain caused by eruptions and nerve pain. Nerve pain may last several months or even years. After the blister crust over completely, the risk of spreading lowers considerably. With proper knowledge and awareness, this condition can be recognized and treated easily.

The shingles band

The shingles symptoms, at times, become rampant around the waist or rib cage. This looks like a band or a belt. This classic symptom can be easily recognized as shingles. Signs may even be seen on one side of our midsection. This very eruption can make tight-fitting clothes feel uncomfortable.

Ophthalmic shingles

This type of shingles often affects our nerves. These nerves, in turn, control our facial sensation. The nerves also control the movement of our faces. This classic type generally initiates around the eyes. They even show up on the nose and over our forehead.

Other early signs include swelling of eyes and redness. There may be symptoms like inflammation of the iris and cornea. Also, developing a drooping eyelid may be an early sign of ophthalmic shingles. Ophthalmic shingles may lead to blurred vision, double vision or even partial blindness.

Shingles spreading gradually

Around a fourth of the population affected by shingles develops multiple rashes across multiple regions. Also, dermatoses give way to a separate layer of the skin. But, this is a rare thing to take place. This separate skin is often supplied by the spinal nerves. If the rashes affect more dermatoses, the condition becomes disseminated.


There could be some complications that folks develop from shingles:

  • Postherpetic neuralgia:  Shingles may continue to show up even after the blisters have cleared. People start to develop an unbearable pain. This very condition is more commonly known as postherpetic neuralgia. This happens when the nerves send confusing signals to our brains. These exaggerated messages of pain pass on from our skin to our nervous system.
  • Loss of vision: Some people develop ophthalmic shingles symptoms. These cause severe eye infections, to say the least. At times, some people may even lose their vision.
  • Neurological complications: Depending on the nerves that are affected, shingles may cause inflammations in the brain. This condition is commonly called encephalitis. Shingles can even give way to hearing problems, balance issues or even facial paralysis.
  • Skin infections: If blisters aren’t treated properly, bacterial infections may get very serious.

Can shingles be contagious?

One cannot spread the disease to another person. This very finding has been confirmed.

How do shingles spread?

The virus never spreads after the blisters have become severe. The scabbing blisters are not contagious ant more. Even if you come in contact with people’s oozing blisters, chances are you will not get affected. Also, the viruses do not spread where the blisters are covered well. One cannot get shingles through another person’s saliva.

Even nasal secretions do not spread shingles barring rare conditions. This also means that you usually do not get shingles if an affected person sneezes on you.

Outlook towards folks having shingles

Most people affected with shingles may experience discomfort or pain for a short while. People generally get only one episode in their entire lifetime.

Shingles blisters and eruptions are usually temporary. They clear up within a month of their first occurrence. But, the nerve pain may persist for a while. Here, the role of caregivers is truly important. People suffering from shingles symptoms must be treated with due care. The younger generation usually shows no sign after the blisters have gone. They hardly experience nerve-related pain. This could be due to higher immunity in young people.

Medical advances have made things easy. This means few people get shingles symptoms or chickenpox more than once in their lives. If caregivers remain patient, things become easier for the affected.


Open infections are often susceptible to bacterial outgrowth. To lower the possibility of tertiary infections, keep the affected area clean. Avoid scratching the affected zone as much as possible. Tertiary infections may give way to permanent scars. Report the very first sign to an expert medical practitioner to avoid any further spread.

How long can shingles last?

Typically shingles last up to five weeks. Shingles generally follow a trend or pattern.

  • The first few days are of pain and weakness. There can even be a temporary numbness.
  • Within the first 10 days, rashes will take the form of fluid-filled blisters.
  • A few days later, blisters dry up. The crusts clear up completely. Then they start to flatten.
  • After a while, the crusts clear up completely.

Stages of shingles

The first signs of shingles are rather apparent and clear. But, a few unfortunate people may develop tertiary conditions. Postherpetic neuralgia may last long and is an advanced stage of this medical condition. This is probably the worst-known aspect of shingles.

The post-herpetic neuralgia may cause anxiety and depressive episodes. It often gives people sleepless nights. Generally, the old develop the chances of PHN. People with PHN experience a severe loss of weight. Such people find it hard to perform even daily activities. Things like cooking, eating or even dressing becomes difficult for them.

Only an expert medical practitioner may help in advanced stages of shingles. Often steroids lessen the pain in PHN. Steroids also lessen the length of the illness. Antidepressants and analgesics also help reduce pain. PHN is likely to get better over time with proper analysis and medication.

See your physician right away on noticing rashes. This will never let the condition to linger or persist. Hearing loss is the most damaging symptom of advanced shingles.


Several vaccines have been devised to reduce or check the spread of shingles. The vaccines include Zostavax and its subunit, Shingrix.

Zostavax could potentially prevent the condition for 3 long years. The situation equates to a fifty percent reduction, to say the least. The efficacy of the vaccines can be maintained through further follow-up. People with primary shingles or acquired immune deficiency may never receive any live virus again.

In England, people as old as 78 also receive vaccines. But, if the condition suppresses the immune function, one must not tale a vaccine. If vaccinated forcibly there could very well adverse effects. Healthy adults who are fifty years old can receive 2 doses about six months apart.

Shingles treatment

On the diagnosis of the disease and certain good medications, there can be the best healing at home.

The natural remedies

  • Healing baths: Daily cleaning of the blisters become important. This reduces the chances of further infections. A soothing shower may lessen the pain a great deal. The coolness of the water can potentially calm the itchiness. Even lukewarm baths may be of great help. But, here comes the word of caution. Never use hot water directly on the blisters. This will only worsen the pain and may even cause blood flow. Towel-dry your body and never forget to sanitize the used towel.
  • Wet and cool compress: Apply wet and cool compress on the affected region. This itchiness and relieve potential symptoms. Soak a cloth in lukewarm water and apply it on the affected parts of the body. Now, do the same thing with cool water. Repeat the process as per the nature and the seriousness of the condition. Never apply to ice-cold packs on the fluid-filled blisters. The cold feel can enhance skin-sensitivity & worsen the pain.
  • Cornstarch & baking soda: You can make a paste using cornstarch and baking soda. Add a little water to the concoction and apply the paste to the affected parts. Rinse it off after twenty minutes of application. This will lessen the redness of the skin.
  • Dietary remedies: Certain dietary changes strengthen the immune function and inhibit the spread of shingles. Eat foods like whole fruits, leafy vegetables, legumes, spinach, and tomatoes. Even lean meat and eggs can lend help to this ailing condition.

Final thoughts

The healing process can speed up if caregivers remain loyal. Do not forget to be patient with the ailing person. Also, sanitize clothes and handkerchiefs used by the patient. But, this condition should not be very serious with proper care. The affected may start to heal soon if treated with love and attention. 


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