Shingles Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Complications, Prevention

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shingles symptoms

Shingle is a physical condition that arises due to a viral infection. Generally, it leads to rashes on different parts of your body. Mostly, a person affected by shingles can experience it in the form of a single strip of blisters near the torso region. The virus causing it is known as the Varicella-Zoster Virus which also causes chickenpox. It is believed that the virus deactivates when you recover from chickenpox but can reactivate as shingles later on. It normally lies in the nerve tissues near the brain and spinal cord. There are some common and prominent shingles symptoms which can help you determine the condition.

Shingles are very painful but they are not life-threatening. You can get some help through vaccination if treated when it is mild shingles. There are cases of severe complications due to negligence and improper treatment. It is observed in the US that people who suffered from chickenpox have higher chances of getting affected by shingles. According to CDCP or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among every 3 individual, at least one person develops shingles during their lifetime in the US. Generally, shingles affect people after the age of 50 but in some cases, you can experience it at an early age too.

Shingles Symptoms

When it comes to symptoms of shingles then you should know that the most common symptoms are pain and burning sensation. Usually, you will experience pain in your body which is followed by rashes. It is not possible to experience shingles symptoms no rash as it is a primary symptom of this condition. The affected area of your body is filled with red rashes. Along with rashes you also may experience:

  • Itching
  • Red patches
  • Blisters filled with fluid which eventually breaks
  • Wraps around the spine and torso
  • Fever
  • Muscle weakness
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Generally, you will experience different symptoms when you are affected by shingles. It usually affects areas of your body such as back, chest, buttock, face, eye, ear, mouth, around the waist and sometimes internal parts of the body too. At times, the shingles symptoms also lead to the Ramsay Hunt syndrome which is very bad for your health. The appearance of the condition mostly depends on which dermatome distribution does the virus affects.

1. Shingles on Buttocks

When a person is affected by shingles, they experience mild shingles rash in the butt region. This doesn’t have to be on your entire butt but on any side of your buttock. Some common symptoms of shingles on the buttock are pain, itching and tingling sensation. Within a few days of it, you will experience redness and blisters on your buttock.

2. Shingles on Face

Just as shingles affects other parts of your body, it also affects your face. In the case of shingles of the face, it normally affects your entire face and not any particular side of it. Possibly the rash can spread to your eyes, ear, scalp and mouth. Shingles on the scalp cause severe pain when you comb your hair. It can also lead to permanent baldness too. You can browse the internet for some pictures of shingles to determine if you have any or not.

3. Shingles of the Eye

When you are suffering from shingles in or around the eye it is called Herpes Zoster Ophthalmicus or Ophthalmic Herpes Zoster. Generally, it affects around 10% to 20% of people in the US. The initial symptom is a blistering rash on the eyelids. It can spread to your eye from the forehead or around the nose. This is one of the stages of shingles where it spreads from one part of the face to other parts. This, in turn, leads to tearing, blurred vision, throbbing in the eye, swelling and redness. Shingles can effectively damage the nerves of the eye and result in pain. Most people get rid of the blisters but the pain exists for quite some time.

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If you neglect shingles treatment then this can cause severe damage to your eye such as loss of vision, swelling of the cornea, etc. it is highly recommended to opt for treating the condition within 72 hours of detection for faster healing. Besides, you don’t want your eye to be permanently damaged.

4. Shingles of the Ear

Quite similar to the eye, shingles can spread from the face to the ear. This, in turn, can cause damage to your hearing. You might experience problems with your hearing balance as well as muscle weakness. Shingles symptoms around the ear can be very harmful to you so you must consult a doctor for immediate help and medical attention.

5. Shingles Symptoms of the Mouth

If shingles can affect your face, ear, nose, the eye then it can surely spread to your mouth. Shingles inside the mouth have some specific symptoms which include toothache, facial tenderness, lesions in soft and hard palate tissues and pain in the mouth. As a result, you will experience a problem with eating and drinking.

6. Internal shingles

If you care to go through the internet, you will get to see pictures of shingles in the internal organs of your body. You might not see rashes on the internal organs but there are other symptoms. In a couple of researches, it has been witnessed that shingles in the digestive system lead to gastrointestinal dysfunction. Moreover, shingles in the brain damage the arteries causing chances of severe dementia and stroke.

Causes of Shingles

Shingles causes a lot of harm to your health even though it might seem a mild health condition. The virus which causes chickenpox lies dormant for a long time and then reactivates leading to shingles. If you have experienced chickenpox earlier in your life then you might also get affected by shingles. Although you don’t need to experience shingles if you had suffered from chickenpox. Normally, the virus reactivates and affects your body if you have a weak immune system. The Varicella-Zoster virus belongs to the family of herpes viruses which causes genital herpes and cold sores. This is why shingles are also called Herpes Zoster.

Is Shingles Contagious?

It is a misconception if you think shingles is contagious. On the contrary, the Varicella-Zoster virus can spread from one person to another. This, in turn, leads to chickenpox but not shingles. You might develop shingles later on in your life or you may not. It completely depends on your immune system. Shingles causes due to only one reason and that is the reactivation of the Varicella-Zoster virus present in your body. Unfortunately, you might get affected by the virus when you come in contact with an oozing blister. The blisters are harmless if they have formed scabs or they are covered.

To restrict the virus from spreading to other parts of the body as well as coming in contact with other people, you must keep the blisters clean. It is recommended to clean the rashes, cover them, don’t touch them with bare hands and wash your hands more often. Besides, if you are suffering from shingles then do not come in contact with people with a weak immune system and pregnant women.

Risk Factors

People in the US have mostly experienced chickenpox once in their lifetime which enhances their chances of getting affected by shingles. They must learn more about shingles symptoms so that if they are suffering from it then they can opt for treatment. Moreover, they can protect their children by vaccinating them for chickenpox at an early age. The risk factors related to shingles are mentioned below.

  • If you are above the age of 50 years then there are higher chances for you to develop shingles. You can differentiate severe shingles from mild shingles pictures. Along with age the risk increases. A study suggests that people at the age of 80 have the maximum chances of developing shingles in the US. This is because of a weaker immune system.
  • Another prominent risk factor for experiencing shingles is suffering from any disease. It can be any disease which effectively weakens your immune system and allows the virus to reactivate. Mostly, patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, etc have a higher risk of developing shingles.
  • The procedure of cancer treatment is so vigorous that it weakens your immune system. This, in turn, lowers your resistance power and triggers the Varicella-Zoster virus.
  • There are certain medications which are too strong for your immune system to handle. Generally, these drugs are prescribed to prevent rejection from your body after organ transplant. Taking steroids for a longer period also damages your resistance power.
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Complications related to Shingles

Negligence of shingles treatment can lead to a couple of complications. Some of the most common complications are listed below.

  1. Post-herpetic Neuralgia – In some cases, people suffering from shingles experience pain even though the blisters have long gone. This condition is called post-herpetic neuralgia. This condition develops when damaged nerve fibers send wrong messages. As a result, you will experience pain from your brain to your skin.
  2. Vision Loss – Untreated shingles causesa loss of vision. The condition is called ophthalmic shingles which leads to pain in the cornea, infection and finally vision loss.
  3. Neurological Problems – When shingles affect your body it damages some of the nerves. Nerves damaged around the brain can lead to encephalitis or inflammation of the brain. On the other hand, nerve damage caused in the face can cause facial paralysis. Furthermost, if skin blisters caused by shingles aren’t treated properly then you can experience bacterial skin infections.


Not having adequate knowledge about certain things can lead to the rise of several misconceptions. One unusual misconception is that shingles can only affect old people. The risk of suffering from shingles increases with age but that doesn’t mean you cannot experience it at a young age. There are certain cases of shingles where children have reported for shingles treatment. There are also a good number of people who think this is a rare condition but it isn’t. A report created by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases has declared that 50% of people who live up to the age of 85 have chances to develop shingles at some point in their life.

How to prevent Shingles?

There are only a couple of vaccines available for shingles. You can vaccinate yourself to restrict the shingles symptoms from arising at any point of your life. Generally, there are two vaccines to prevent shingles. Firstly, there is the chickenpox vaccine for the Varicella virus. Secondly, there is the shingles vaccine for the Varicella-Zoster virus.

1. Chickenpox Vaccine

Varivax is the vaccine for preventing chickenpox from affecting your health. It is now a routine childhood vaccine which is mandatory to give to your child. This vaccine strengthens the immune system to fight against the virus. Adults need to get the vaccine even if they never suffered from chickenpox.

2. Shingles Vaccine

There are two different shingles vaccine, one is Zostavax and the other is Shingrix. There isn’t much difference among the vaccines and doesn’t vary with your shingles symptoms too. You can avail yourself any of these vaccines to prevent the virus to affect your health. The Zostavax vaccine was approved in 2006 by the FDA or Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine protects you for 5 years against shingles. On the other hand, Shingrix was approved recently in the year 2017 by FDA. It is preferred as a better vaccine and protects you for than 5 years against shingles.

The vaccines are given in two dosages within 6 months. While Shingix is allowed for people of age 50 and above, Zostavax isn’t allowed until the age of 60. You can take Shingix even if you have injected yourself with Zostavax.


You must keep a couple of things in mind. Firstly, the vaccines are the only protection against the condition and you can still get affected by it. Even the vaccination process can lead to a couple of symptoms such as tenderness, redness, itching, pain and swelling. Do not mistake these for the symptoms of shingles. Consult your doctor if you experience anything unusual.

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