Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Shingles symptoms

If you have shingles, then initially you may experience:

  • burning
  • tingling
  • itching
  • stabbing
  • numbness sensation on the affected area of your body.

Within two to three days after the initial symptoms a painful rash will appear on the sensitive area of skin.

At first this rash consists of painful red bumps that quickly develop into fluid-filled blisters, which will eventually develop a crusty surface.

In many people shingles will get better without any complications. However a number of complications of shingles can occur. These include:

  • Ongoing pain after the shingles rash has settled. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) and occurs in about half of older people with shingles. Shingles occurring in the eye area could result in temporary or permanent vision loss, if you do have shingles in your eye your doctor may refer you to an eye specialist for treatment.
  • Between 5-10% of people who have shingles may develop weakness in their arms or legs. The shingles rash could become infected and you may need antibiotic treatment.
  • Shingles can occasionally damage hearing or can lead to a dry mouth or taste problems depending on the specific nerves affected by the virus.
  • In very rare cases shingles will scar, or result in encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord).
  • On very rare occasions shingles can trigger the spread of the chickenpox virus to internal organs, like the lungs. This could be life threatening.
  • If shingles affects the central nerves in your head, it may result in a rare condition called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome.

When to see your doctor?

See your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. If you are treated with antiviral medications within three days of shingles starting you could reduce the severity of shingles and the risk of further complications.

Also see your doctor if you have symptoms of shingles and are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • severe headache
  • symptoms that affect your eye area
  • temperature of 38ºC or higher
  • if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system due to medication which suppresses your immune system, or a condition which lowers your immune system.

Last reviewed: May 2015

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 159 results

Shingles

Shingles is a viral infection characterised by a painful rash on the skin. The infection is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Read more on WA Health website

Chickenpox and Shingles

Chickenpox is a common viral infection that can reappear later in life as shingles. Vaccination is recommended for all infants and non immune adults.

Read more on NSW Health website

Shingles - myDr.com.au

Shingles is a painful rash caused by the chickenpox virus. Initial symptoms can be intense pain, burning or tingling on an area of skin on the face or body.

Read more on myDr website

9 Things you should know about shingles

People who have had chickenpox can later develop shingles (herpes zoster), when the chickenpox virus re-activates. Shingles causes a painful rash.

Read more on myDr website

Shingles in children, teenagers & adults | Raising Children Network

Shingles is a viral infection that appears as a rash. Children can get shingles, but its more common in older people and sick people. You need to see a GP.

Read more on Raising Children Network website

Kids' Health - Topics - Shingles

After someone has had chicken pox, the virus stays in the nerve cells of the person's spine (called 'nerve roots'). It does not damage the nerve or the way the nerve works until, for some reason which is not yet clear, the virus starts to grow again, causing shingles.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Shingles (Herpes-Zoster)

Read more on Queensland Health website

Chickenpox and Shingles Tests - Lab Tests Online AU

Varicella Zoster Virus Culture; Varicella Zoster Virus by PCR; Varicella Zoster Virus by DFA; Varicella Zoster Virus Antibodies, IgG and IgM

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Vaccinations for older people - myDr.com.au

Three common but potentially dangerous diseases that older people should be vaccinated against are influenza, pneumococcal disease and shingles (herpes zoster); diphtheria and tetanus boosters may also be needed.

Read more on myDr website

Zostavax Powder for injection - myDr.com.au

Zostavax Powder for injection - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback