Symptoms of Shingles
Burning pain in or under the skin is often the first sign of shingles. Other early symptoms can range from fever to chills to upset stomach. After several days of early symptoms, a rash of small fluid-filled blisters can appear on reddened skin. These symptoms of shingles generally improve over time, but sometimes they can result in complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia.
The first symptom of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or sometimes numbness, in or under the skin. An individual may also feel ill with fever, chills, headache, or an upset stomach.
Shingles pain can be mild or intense, and is often described as unrelenting. People with shingles sores on the torso may feel spasms of pain at the gentlest touch or breeze.
After several days (48 to 72 hours) of early shingles symptoms, a rash of small fluid-filled blisters, reminiscent of chickenpox, appears on reddened skin. The blisters seem to arrive in waves over a period of three to five days.
The blisters are usually limited to a specific band (called a dermatome) spanning one side of the torso, around the waistline, or clustered on one side of the face. This differs from chickenpox (where the blisters are scattered all over the body). The distribution of the shingles spots is a telltale clue to where the chickenpox virus has been hiding since the initial infection. Scientists now know that the location of the shingles lesions corresponds to the dermatome supplied by a specific sensory nerve that exits from the brain or spinal cord.
After the blisters erupt, the open sores take a week or two to crust over. The sores are usually gone within another two weeks. The pain may diminish somewhat, but it often continues for months -- and can go on for years.
The torso and face are the parts most likely to be affected, but on occasion, shingles breaks out in the lower body. The burning sensation in the rash area is often accompanied by shooting pains.