Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles start with itching, burning, tingling, or painful feelings in a band-like area. The skin rash appears 3 to 4 days after you notice these symptoms.

Early Symptoms

Early symptoms happen about 3 to 4 days before the rash. During this time, you may have:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Discomfort in the skin, usually on one side of the face, torso, trunk, back, or buttocks. You may feel:
    • Numbness
    • Itching
    • Burning
    • Stinging
    • Tingling
    • Shooting pain
    • Electric shock
    • Sharp pain
    • Extreme sensitivity to even light touch

Symptoms of Active Shingles

This period starts when you first notice a rash in the same area as the early symptoms:

  • The rash begins as a reddish band or individual bumps in a line.
  • The bumps get fluid-filled centers.
  • Over the course of 7 to 10 days, the bumps dry and crust over.
  • You may have pain and itching in the area of the rash; the pain may be severe.
  • If the rash is on the side of your nose or other parts of your face, you should call your doctor right away. This can be a sign that your eye is affected.

The rash of active shingles should be gone within a week to a month. About 20% of people have pain after the rash has healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. It can be severe and limit activities.

REFERENCES:

Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113997/Herpes-zoster. Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

NINDS shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/shingles/shingles.htm. Updated June 27, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/contagious-skin-diseases/shingles. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/overview.html. Updated June 15, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Stankus SJ, Dlugopolski M, Packer D. Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(8):2437-2444.

Last reviewed June 2018 by James Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 7/18/18