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Symptoms of shingles

If you have shingles, then initially you may experience the following symptoms:

  • pain
  • a burning, tingling or itching sensation
  • a stabbing sensation
  • sensitivity to touch
  • a feeling of numbness in the affected area of the body
  • sensitivity to light
  • fever and/or headache
  • fatigue.

Two to 3 days after the initial symptoms appear, a painful rash will appear on the sensitive area of skin, often on the left or right side of your body.

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

In many people, shingles gets better without any complications. However, in others, several complications 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. Post-herpetic neuralgia is less common in younger people.
  • 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 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 people who have shingles may develop weakness in their arms or legs.
  • The shingles rash could become infected and you may need antibiotic treatment.

When to see your doctor

See your doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing any symptoms of shingles. If you are treated with antiviral medications within 3 days of shingles starting, you could reduce the condition's severity and the risk of further complications.

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

You should also see your doctor if you are pregnant, or have a weakened immune system due to medication that suppresses the immune system, or a condition that weakens your immune system.

Last reviewed: May 2015

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