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Advice and Support you can trust


From understanding symptoms & causes, to treatment & vaccinations, we talk you through all you need to know about shingles

Pharmacy First

What is shingles?

Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the skin around it, that causes a painful rash. It’s also known as herpes zoster and is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus.

What are the signs & symptoms of shingles?

Sometimes there are early symptoms that develop a few days before the shingles rash first appears. These early symptoms can include:

  • A headache

  • Feeling generally unwell

  • A high temperature

  • Pain, burning, tingling, numbness or itchiness of the skin in the affected area

The main symptoms of shingles are pain in the affected area, followed by a rash that develops a few days later.

The pain may be constant, dull or burning, and can range in intensity from mild to severe. You may also experience sharp stabbing pains at times, and the affected area of skin will usually be tender.

The rash appears on one side of your body only. If you have a rash on both sides of your body, it’s unlikely that you have shingles. The rash can be red, but this can be harder to see on brown or black skin.

The rash normally appears on the chest or stomach. However, it can appear anywhere on your body, including your face, eyes or genitals.

The rash appears as blotches on your skin, and then develops into itchy blisters. These blisters may ooze fluid, and new blisters can continue to appear for up to a week.

After a few days, blisters appear yellowish in colour, flatten, dry out and scab over. These scabs may leave some slight scarring. 

An episode of shingles usually lasts around two to four weeks. However, sometimes the pain may continue for several weeks after the rash has gone.

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