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The virus moves along the nerve fibres and affects cells of the skin, resulting in a skin rash. It is intended for general information purposes only and does not address individual circumstances.
It is caused by the herpes varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that's behind chickenpox.
It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. The virus is never fully cleared from the body and shingles occurs when the virus reactivates. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the BootsWebMD Site.
What does the shingles rash look like?Pain, itching, tingling, burning are all symptoms of shingles that may occur several days before the outbreak of the rash. Starting as small blisters on a red base, with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days, shingles is painful. Shingles symptoms: Before the rashThe first symptoms of shingles appear one to four days before the rash. The first time someone is exposed to the virus, it causes the widespread, itchy sores known as chickenpox. If you have shingles symptoms, seek medical advice even if you think you've never had chickenpox.


Many childhood cases of chickenpox are mild enough to go unnoticed, but the virus can still linger and reactivate. To reduce the risk of complications, it's important to start treatment as soon as possible. How long does shingles last?Shingles blisters usually scab over in seven to 10 days and disappear completely in two to four weeks. In most healthy people, the blisters leave no scars, and the pain and itching go away after a few weeks or months.
But people with weakened immune systems may develop shingles blisters that do not heal in a timely manner. Who's at risk of shingles?Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can get shingles, but the risk increases with age. However, it is possible for a person who has never had chickenpox to catch chickenpox from fluid from the blisters of someone with shingles. Can shingles cause chronic pain?In some people, the pain of shingles may linger for months or even years after the rash has healed. This pain, due to damaged nerves in and beneath the skin, is known as postherpetic neuralgia. In severe cases, the pain or itching may be bad enough to cause insomnia, weight loss, or depression. Other complications of shinglesIf the shingles rash appears around the eye or forehead, it can cause eye infections and temporary or permanent loss of vision. These complications can usually be prevented by commencing treatment for shingles as soon as possible.


Ramsay Hunt SyndromeAnother shingles complication is Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects some nerves in the head.
Symptoms include earache, hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo, tinnitus, loss of taste and Bell's palsy paralysis of the face. Treatment: Antiviral medicationWhile there is no cure for shingles, antiviral medications such as aciclovir, valaciclovir and famciclovir may be recommended to reduce the severity and length of an attack.
Treatment: Rash reliefOver-the-counter pain killing medication and anti-itch lotions, such as calamine, can relieve the pain and itching of the shingles rash. If the pain is severe or the rash is concentrated near an eye or ear, seek prompt medical advice. Home care for shinglesColloidal or oatmeal baths are an old standby for relieving the itch of chickenpox and can help with shingles as well. To speed up the drying out of the blisters, try placing a cool, damp flannel on the rash (but not when calamine lotion or other creams have been applied). The Department of Health says the Zostavax vaccination programme will prevent 38% of the 30,000 cases seen every year in people over 70. Additionally, those who get the jab but still go on to develop shingles can expect to see a 55% reduction in symptoms.



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