Shingles - Symptoms

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What are shingles symptoms and signs? How long does shingles last?

Even when there is no rash, the pain of shingles may be apparent. Before a rash is visible, the patient may notice several days to a week of burning pain and sensitive skin. When the characteristic rash is not yet apparent, it may be difficult to determine the cause of the often severe pain. Shingles rash starts as small blisters on a red base, with new blisters continuing to form for three to five days. The blisters follow the path of individual nerves that come out of the spinal cord in a specific "ray-like" distribution (called a dermatomal pattern) and appear in a band-like pattern on an area of skin. The entire path of the affected nerve may be involved, or there may be areas in the distribution of the nerve with blisters and areas without blisters. Generally, only one nerve level is involved. In a rare case, more than one nerve will be involved. Eventually, the blisters pop, and the area starts to ooze. The affected areas will then crust over and heal. The duration of the outbreak may take three to four weeks from start to finish. On occasion, the pain will be present but the blisters may never appear. This can be a very confusing cause of local pain.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: john the sheriff, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: December 13

I noticed what I thought were spider bites on the lower right side of my back, but they wouldn't go away. Then I started to feel a pain on the right side of my back and stomach that got steadily worse. After 1- 1/2 weeks I saw a doctor and he said I had shingles and prescribed 500mg valacyclovir 3 times a day. After 1 week there is no change in the pain, I will see my local neurologist tomorrow.

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Comment from: Jeanne6101, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 26

A few days before I broke out in shingles, my shoulder and bicep area was very painful. I was very tired and had been fighting migraines for almost 4 months. I developed a rash on my upper left arm, and two days later, on my inner left hand that looked like insect bites. I went to doctor and she diagnosed me with shingles. She said, one reason I probably was not hurting so much was because I was on Medrol for migraines. I am on medication for shingles and pain!

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