Shingles Causes, Complications, Symptoms And Treatment


The shingles virus is a contagious virus that causes an uncomfortable rash. On your body, shingles can appear everywhere. The appearance is a single band of blisters encircling either the left or right side of your chest.

Shingles are brought on by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Your body harbors the chickenpox virus for the remainder of your life. Years later, the infection may reappear as shingles.

Shingles pose little danger to life. However, the agony might be severe. The risk of contracting shingles can be decreased through vaccination. Early treatment may shorten the course of shingles and lower the risk of complications. 

The postherpetic neuralgia complication is the most common. This is a painful disease that lasts a very long time and gives you shingles after the healing of your blisters.


Shingles are brought on by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. People who have had chicken pox are more prone to develop shingles. After you have healed from chicken pox, the virus enters your nervous system and lies latent for years.

Occasionally the virus reactivates and spreads to your skin through nerve connections, resulting in shingles. It is not usually the case that someone who has had chickenpox develops shingles.

It is uncertain what causes shingles. That could be because as individuals age, their immunity against infections declines. Those with compromised immune systems and elderly people are more likely to develop shingles.

The herpes virus family includes the varicella-zoster virus. The viruses that cause genital herpes and cold sores are members of the same family. Hence, shingles are also referred to as zoster. Nevertheless, the virus that causes genital herpes, a sexually transmitted infection, and cold sores is different from the virus that causes shingles and chickenpox.

Anybody who is not immune to chickenpox can get varicella zoster from a person who has shingles. This often happens when someone comes into touch with an open sore from the shingles outbreak. Yet, once infected, the person will have chickenpox as opposed to shingles.

Certain people may be at risk from chickenpox. While your shingles blisters are still open, you remain contagious. Avoid making physical contact with those who have not received the chickenpox vaccination or the illness yet. It covers those with compromised immune systems, expectant mothers, and infants.

How to check if you have Shingles?

If you think you may have shingles, call your doctor right away, especially if any of the following apply:

  • Rash and discomfort appear on the eye. This infection might result in serious eye damage if left untreated.
  • 50 years of age or older. As we age, our chance of issues increases.
  • You either have a weaker immune system or someone in your family does.
  • Cancer, drug side effects, or a persistent ailment might be to blame.
  • An unpleasant, broad rash is present.

Risk Factors

Shingles can appear in anybody who has ever had chickenpox. The majority of people who are now adults experienced chickenpox as children. It was before the common childhood immunization that offers protection against chickenpox was accessible.

You may be more prone to develop shingles if you have the following factors:

Age. Age raises the likelihood of getting shingles. Shingles are more likely to affect those over 50. Moreover, issues that are more severe are more likely to occur in adults over the age of 60.

A few illnesses. HIV/AIDS and cancer are immune-suppressive illnesses that might make you more susceptible to developing shingles.

Cancer therapies. Your immune system may get weakened by radiation or chemotherapy, which may potentially cause shingles.

Some medicines. Medications used to prevent transplant organ rejection may raise your chances of shingles. Prednisone and other long-term steroid usage may raise your chance of getting shingles.


The symptoms of shingles often only affect a limited area on one side of your body. These signs might consist of:

  • Ache, tingling, or burning
  • The capacity for touch
  • A few days after the discomfort, a red rash appears
  • Blisters that are fluid-filled, crack open, and then crust over Itching

Some individuals also go through

  • Fever
  • Headache

Fatigue and light sensitivity are frequently the first indicators of shingles. For some people, the anguish may be unbearable. Depending on where it occurs, the discomfort might be mistaken for problems with the heart, lungs, or kidneys. Some individuals experience the pain of shingles while never developing the rash.

The shingles rash appears as a band of blisters that spans the left or right side of the chest. Sometimes, the side of the neck, face, or eye may develop a shingles rash.


A shingles vaccination might aid in shingles prevention. Whether they have ever had shingles, persons over the age of 50 are approved for and advised to use Shingrix. The Shingrix vaccination may also be given to those who have already had the Zostavax shot or who are unsure if they have ever had chickenpox.

Ages 19 and older individuals with weakened immune systems brought on by disease or medicines are also suggested to take Shingrix.

A nonliving vaccination created from a viral component is called Shingrix. It is administered twice, with a two to the six-month interval between each dosage. Redness, discomfort, and swelling at the injection site are the adverse effects of shingles vaccination. Other side effects include tiredness, headaches, and others.

Even after receiving the shingles vaccination, you might still develop shingles. However, it is likely that this immunization will minimize the course and severity of the illness.

 It will probably reduce your chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia. According to studies, Shingrix provides shingles prevention for a period of more than five years.

If any of the following apply, discuss your immunization choices with your doctor:

  • If you have experienced an adverse reaction to any shingles vaccination component
  • If you possess a compromised immune system as a result of a disease or medicine
  • If you possess a stem tissue transplant

The only purpose of shingles vaccination is to prevent shingles. Those who already have the condition are not supposed to be treated with it.


It is impossible to treat shingles. Early antiviral medication therapy may hasten recovery and reduce your risk of problems. 

Shingles can cause excruciating pain, therefore in addition to the following medications, your doctor may prescribe:

  • A patch containing capsaicin (Qutenza)
  • Drugs that treat seizures, like gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant)
  • Tricyclic medications for depression, such as amitriptyline
  • Anaesthetics in the form of cream, gel, spray, or skin patches, such as lidocaine
  • A corticosteroid- and local anaesthetic-containing injection

See your doctor or pharmacist to learn more about the advantages and potential negative effects of any medications you are prescribed.

The typical duration of shingles is two to six weeks. Most people only experience shingles once. Yet, it is possible to obtain it twice or more.

Complications of Shingles

Among shingles complications are:

Neuralgia following shingles. Some patients have shingles pain even after the blisters have healed. The name for this ailment is postherpetic neuralgia. It happens when injured nerve fibres cause pain signals to travel from your skin to your brain in a jumbled, excessive manner.

Sight loss. Ophthalmic shingles, often known as eye shingles, are painful eye diseases that can impair eyesight.

Neurological conditions. Inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), facial paralysis, hearing loss, and balance issues are all potential side effects of shingles.

Infected skin. Blisters from shingles may get infected with bacteria if they are not adequately treated.

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Page last reviewed: Apr 17, 2023

Next review due: Apr 17, 2025

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