Shingles progress in stages starting with a feeling that a mild illness is setting in. The pain or burning is usually the first sign that will call attention to the condition. The rash that ensues is the confirmation that the virus that causes shingles has reactivated.
The first sign of shingles is usually a localized pain or a burning itch sensation on one side of the body. It may have been preceded by flu-like symptoms or a headache with light-sensitivity.
During the days to follow, a red skin rash will appear followed by fluid filled blisters, similar to the chicken pox, that tend to form in small clusters. The rash can appear anywhere on the body, but will often form a band around the trunk at the waistline. Another common rash site for shingles is on the face around the eyes and forehead.
Shingles can present without blisters, but these milder cases often go unnoticed.
The blisters will break within a few weeks and will begin to crust over and heal. The crusts will fall off in 2-3 weeks. It is important to allow the crusts to fall off naturally. Scratching and picking at them can cause a secondary bacterial infection that can result in scarring.
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“Shingles (Herpes Zoster) Treatment, Causes, Symptoms, Vaccine.” WebMD – Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-topic-overview>.
“Shingles and chickenpox (Varicella-zoster virus) – Complications.” University of Maryland Medical Center | Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2012. <http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/who_gets_chickenpox_shingles_000082_3.htm>