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What Does Shingles Look Like?

What is shingles?

Shingles, or herpes zoster, occurs when the dormant chickenpox virus, varicella zoster, is reactivated in your nerve tissues. Early signs of shingles include tingling and localized pain.

Most, but not all, people with shingles develop a blistering rash. You may also experience itching, burning, or deep pain.

Typically, the shingles rash lasts two to four weeks, and most people make a complete recovery.

Doctors are often able to quickly diagnose shingles from the appearance of the rash.

First symptoms

Early symptoms of shingles may include fever and general weakness. You may also feel areas of pain, burning, or a tingling sensation. A few days later, the first signs of a rash appear.

You may begin to notice pink or red blotchy patches on one side of your body. These patches cluster along nerve pathways. Some people report feeling shooting pains in the area of the rash.

During this initial stage, shingles is not contagious.


The rash quickly develops fluid-filled blisters similar to chickenpox. They may be accompanied by itching. New blisters continue to develop for several days. Blisters appear over a localized area and do not spread over your whole body.

Blisters are most common on the torso and face, but they can occur elsewhere. In rare cases, the rash appears on the lower body.

It’s not possible to transmit shingles to someone. However, if you’ve never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, it’s possible to get chickenpox from someone with shingles through direct contact with active blisters. The same virus causes both shingles and chickenpox.

Scabbing and crusting

Blisters sometimes erupt and ooze. They may then turn slightly yellow and begin to flatten. As they dry out, scabs begin to form. Each blister can take one to two weeks to completely crust over.

During this stage, your pain may ease a little, but it can continue for months, or in some cases, years.

Once all blisters have completely crusted over, there is low risk of spreading the virus.

The shingles “belt”

Shingles often appears around the rib cage or waist, and may look like a “belt” or half belt. You might also hear this formation referred to as a “shingles band” or a “shingles girdle.”

This classic presentation is easily recognizable as shingles. The belt can cover a wide area on one side of your midsection. Its location can make tight clothing particularly uncomfortable.

Ophthalmic shingles

Ophthalmic shingles affects the nerve that controls facial sensation and movement in your face. In this type, the shingles rash appears around your eye and over your forehead and nose. Ophthalmic shingles may be accompanied by headache.

Other symptoms include redness and swelling of the eye, inflammation of your cornea or iris, and drooping eyelid. Ophthalmic shingles can also cause blurred or double vision.

Widespread shingles

According to the U.S. (CDC), about 20 percent of people with shingles develop a rash that crosses multiple dermatomes. Dermatomes are separate skin areas that are supplied by separate spinal nerves.

When the rash affects three or more dermatomes, it is called disseminated, or widespread zoster. In these cases, the rash may look more like chickenpox than shingles. This is more likely to happen if you have a weakened immune system.


Open sores of any kind are always susceptible to bacterial infection. To lower the possibility of a secondary infection, keep the area clean and avoid scratching. Secondary infection is also more likely if you have a weakened immune system.

Severe infection can lead to permanent scarring of the skin. Report any sign of infection to your doctor immediately. Early treatment can help prevent it from spreading.


Most people can expect the rash to heal within two to four weeks. Although some people may be left with minor scars, most will make a complete recovery with no visible scarring.

In some cases, pain along the site of the rash can continue for several months or longer. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia.

You may have heard that once you get shingles, you can’t get it again. However, the cautions that shingles can return multiple times in some people.

Sours: https://www.healthline.com/health/shingles-pictures

Herpes Zoster (Shingles)

What is herpes zoster (shingles)?

Herpes zoster, or shingles, is a common viral infection of the nerves, which results in a painful rash of small blisters on a strip of skin anywhere on the body. Even after the rash is gone, the pain may continue for months.

  • Shingles is relatively rare in children.
  • Your child is most at risk if he had chickenpox during the first year of life or if you had chickenpox very late during pregnancy.
  • A rash most often occurs on the trunk and buttocks, and usually goes away in one to two weeks.
  • Medication may help alleviate some of the pain, but the disease has to run its course.

What causes herpes zoster?

Herpes zoster is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. After a person has had chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in certain nerves for many years.

Is herpes zoster common?

Shingles is more common in people with a depressed immune system and those over the age of 50. It's quite rare in children, and the symptoms are mild compared to what an adult may experience.

What are the symptoms of herpes zoster?

The rash associated with herpes zoster most often occurs on the trunk and buttocks. It may also appear on the arms, legs, or face. While symptoms may vary child to child, the most common include:

  • skin hypersensitivity in the area where the herpes zoster (shingles) is to appear
  • mild rash, which appears after five days and first looks like small, red spots that turn into blisters
  • blisters, which turn yellow and dry, often leaving small, pitted scars
  • rash goes away in one to two weeks
  • rash is usually localized to one side of the body

How do we diagnose herpes zoster?

Diagnosis usually involves obtaining a medical history of your child and performing a physical exam. Your doctor also may want to:

  • take skin scrapings (gently scraping the blisters to determine if the virus is shingles or another virus)
  • run blood tests

How do we treat herpes zoster?

Medication may help alleviate some of the pain, but the disease has to run its course. Your doctor will prescribe medication based on your child's age and the severity of the symptoms. Immediate treatment with antiviral drugs may help lessen some of the symptoms and minimize nerve damage.

Sours: https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/h/herpes-zoster-shingles
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What Shingles Looks Like

Shingles is an outbreak of a rash or blisters on the skin caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox—the varicella-zoster virus. However, the two conditions are distinctly different.

Chickenpox is the primary infection from the varicella-zoster virus. It produces an uncomfortable, itchy rash, with symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Shingles is the reactivation of the infection. Most people develop chickenpox as children. Shingles most often appears in adulthood.

After you’ve recovered from chickenpox, the virus migrates to the roots of your spinal and cranial nerves where it remains dormant. You most likely will not have chickenpox again. However, the virus can reappear in an adult as shingles. Known as herpes zoster (HZ), shingles occurs when the virus is reactivated in one of your nerves.

The first sign of shingles is usually a burning or stinging sensation in a band-like formation around the waist, chest, stomach, or back. You may experience itching or become incredibly sensitive to even the softest touch. The weight of bed sheets on your skin may be uncomfortable. You may also experience fatigue, fever, and headache.

After a few days or even up to a couple of weeks, the tell-tale shingles rash will appear. This rash consists of fluid-filled blisters that typically scab over within a week to 10 days. The blisters may look like chickenpox, but they are clustered together.

The shingles rash is usually in a striped shape on one side of the body or across the face, following the dermatome. The dermatome is the pattern of nerves that spread out from the affected nerve root.

Shingles can generally be diagnosed by your doctor by taking a health history and looking at your rash. In some instances, your doctor may take a sample of the fluid from one of the blisters to verify the diagnosis.

There is no cure for shingles. However, antivirals can shorten the duration and make the attack less severe, especially when taken within the first three days after the rash appears. Though shingles most often appears on the skin, it can affect any part of the body, including internal organs.

Shingles typically takes three to five weeks to progress through all of the stages of the illness. These stages can be seen below.


After experiencing moderate to severe stinging or burning pain, slightly reddish patches of skin with small bumps will develop in a cluster in the area of pain. These patches then turn into small blisters.

The blisters are typically filled with pus and may be itchy. This stage of shingles can last up to five days before moving to the next stage.

Scabs and Crusting

In this stage, the blisters begin to dry up and scab over. The scabs turn a yellowish color and can take two to 10 days to form.


Scratching your shingles blisters can break them open, which may lead to a bacterial infection. This can lead to scarring.

Be careful when scratching the blisters. If you notice that the area becomes red or swells, see a doctor to rule out further infection.

Ophthalmic Shingles

Ophthalmic shingles, or herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO), is a severe variant of shingles that affects 20% of people who get shingles. People who have a compromised immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are at higher risk for developing ophthalmic shingles.

HZO usually appears within two to four weeks after the onset of the shingles rash. All parts of the eye can be affected.

You can develop blisters around the eye which may cause the eyelids and surrounding area to swell. The cornea can be affected as well, causing calcification (white clouds over the iris). Vascularization can cause blood vessels in the eye to become more pronounced.

Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus Overview

Shingles “Belt”

The shingles “belt” is one of the most common symptoms of shingles. The belt is a single stripe of a rash that appears either on the right or left side of the body around the trunk. This rash pattern is easily identified by doctors and aids in diagnosis of shingles.

Shingles on Dermatomes

Shingles most often occurs on one dermatome. A dermatome is a branch of sensory nerves that arise out of a single spinal nerve.

Though rare, shingles can affect multiple dermatomes. This can lead to a widespread shingles rash across the body.


If you are healthy and receive treatment soon after the blisters occur, you will likely recover fairly quickly. The blisters and scabs will heal, and the pain will subside within three to five weeks.

If you are immunosuppressed, shingles can be a serious threat and you should talk to your doctor about your best treatment options to avoid further complications.

Shingles Doctor Discussion Guide

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Shingles is a painful, red, blistered rash that develops due to reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. It usually appears in a stripe along a nerve path, called a dermatome. The blisters should scab over in a week to 10 days. The pain can take three to five weeks to subside.

A Word From Verywell

If you think you have shingles, it’s important to contact your doctor so that you can receive a proper diagnosis and timely treatment to avoid any complications.

It’s also important to note that shingles is not contagious. However, a person with shingles blisters can transmit chickenpox to someone who has never had chickenpox or is not vaccinated for chickenpox. If you have shingles, it is best to avoid others who have not had chickenpox.

The best way to avoid getting shingles is to have the chickenpox vaccine in childhood. If you have had chickenpox, you can get the shingles vaccine at age 50 or older.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles information page. Updated 2021.

  2. MedlinePlus. Chickenpox | varicella. Updated 2021.

  3. Johnson RW, Alvarez-Pasquin MJ, Bijl M, et al. Herpes zoster epidemiology, management, and disease and economic burden in Europe: a multidisciplinary perspective. Ther Adv Vaccines. 2015;3(4):109-120. doi:10.1177/2051013615599151 [Published correction appears in Ther Adv Vaccines. 2016;4(1-2):32.]

  4. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Shingles: hope through research. Updated 2021.

  5. MedlinePlus. Shingles | herpes zoster. Updated 2021.

  6. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Shingles: overview. Updated November 21, 2019. 

  7. Tuft S. How to manage herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Community Eye Health. 2020;33(108):71-72.

  8. Kantaria SM. Bilateral asymmetrical herpes zoster. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2015;6(3):236. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.156448

Sours: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-shingles-looks-like-5186934

Shingles (Zoster)

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Images of Zoster (Shingles, Herpes Zoster)


Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains sleeping (dormant) in certain nerves in the body. As we get older, our immune system becomes weaker and may not be strong enough to control the virus. Shingles occurs if the virus becomes active again, growing down the nerves to reach the skin and appearing as small, painful blisters.

Who's at risk?

Although anyone who has had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get shingles, it usually occurs in people aged older than 50. People in their 70s are 15 times more likely to get shingles than younger adults. It can also be seen in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer, organ transplants, autoimmune diseases, and HIV/AIDS. Shingles affects approximately 1 million people in the United States each year. Most people who have shingles will not get it again, although on rare occasions it can reappear.

Signs and Symptoms

Pain, itching, and burning or tingling in a specific location on the skin are the first symptoms that develop. After a few days, that same area will develop painful, red bumps that become blisters over 1–2 days and then burst after 5–7 days, leaving sores on the skin that eventually form scabs. You may also have fever, chills, headache, and generalized body aches. Because the virus travels down a nerve to the skin, shingles usually appears on only one side of the body and affects a specific area of the skin. Shingles commonly occurs on the chest, but it may also affect other parts of the body, including the face. The blisters may be in a cluster or a linear pattern. Most people completely recover within 4 weeks.

A particularly serious form of shingles occurs on the face and can affect the eye, possibly affecting vision if it is not promptly treated.

One of the most common complications of shingles is chronic pain in the area of skin where the rash occurred. This is called postherpetic neuralgia, and it occurs in 40% of people who are aged older than 60 when they get shingles. It is more common in older patients and in people who had severe symptoms with the initial rash.

Self-Care Guidelines

Although shingles usually heals without medical care, call your doctor if you suspect shingles before following these self-care instructions.

  • Keep the area clean with mild soap and water.
  • For pain, apply cool, damp compresses and take either acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®).
  • Apply calamine lotion to relive itching.

Shingles is only contagious to people who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. It is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with the blister fluid. When the blisters have formed scabs, you are no longer contagious.

When to Seek Medical Care

Call your doctor if you think you may have shingles, as there are medications that may speed healing if they are given within the first 72 hours after the rash appears.

Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe

Oral antiviral medication, such as acyclovir (Zovirax®), valacyclovir (Valtrex®), or famciclovir (Famvir®) may help if given within 72 hours after shingles lesions first appear. These medicines do not cure shingles, but they can decrease the amount of time you have pain and a rash. Antiviral medications may also decrease your chance of getting postherpetic neuralgia at a later time and may decrease your risk of developing visual problems if you have shingles on the face.

Oral corticosteroids and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, may also be given to control pain. If the area is healed but you still have pain, a topical medication called capsaicin or a local anesthetic patch containing lidocaine may be suggested.

If you have shingles on your face, your doctor will likely send you to an eye specialist to evaluate if the virus is affecting your eye.

There is a zoster vaccine to prevent shingles. It is recommended for anyone aged 50 years and older, regardless of whether they have had shingles before. It has been shown to decrease the number of people who get shingles. Of the people who still get shingles even after the vaccine, fewer will be affected by postherpetic neuralgia.

Trusted Links

MedlinePlus: ShinglesClinical Information and Differential Diagnosis of Zoster (Shingles, Herpes Zoster)


>Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1241-1243. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines and Preventable Diseases: Shingles Disease. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/dis-faqs.htm. Accessed online on January 29, 2009.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.2070, 2079-2080, 2434-2437. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

Mueller NH, Gilden DH, Cohrs RJ, Mahalingam R, Nagel MA. Varicella zoster virus infection: clinical features, molecular pathogenesis of disease, and latency. Neurol Clin. 2008;26(3):675-697. PMID: 18657721.

Opstelten W, Eekhof J, Neven AK, Verheij T. Treatment of herpes zoster. Can Fam Physician. 2008;54(3):373-377. PMID: 18337531.

Woolery WA. Herpes zoster virus vaccine. Geriatrics. 2008;63(10):6-9. PMID: 18828650.

Sours: https://www.skinsight.com/skin-conditions/adult/zoster-shingles

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Herpes Zoster or Shingles

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