Herpes Zoster Virus (shingles) : What are the symptoms?

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Herpes Zoster Virus (shingles)
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What are the symptoms?

The first signs of shingles is often fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and an upset stomach, which can lead people to mistakenly belief they have the flu. These symptoms are often followed by sensations of numbness, tingling or pain on one side of the body or face. Many people describe the pain as burning, throbbing and stinging, with intermittent sharp stabs of severe pain. Some people experience severe itching or aching rather than pain.

After several days of these symptoms, a belt-like rash that extends from the midline of the body outward will develop. The rash will be made up of grape-like clusters of small, clear, fluid-filled blisters on reddened skin. Within three days after the rash appears, the fluid-filled blisters will turn yellow, dry up, and crust over. Shingles rash can sometimes take longer to crust over in HIV-positive people with severely suppressed immune systems. Here's what a shingles rash can look like...

After the rash crusts over, it can take two weeks or longer for the shingles to heal completely, sometimes leaving pitted scars.

In about 10 to 25 percent of cases, shingles can occur in the eye, which is known as "ophthalmicus" shingles. The symptoms range from pain and redness of the eye to impaired vision and chronic twitching of the eyelid. In the worst cases, this can lead to permanent damage and blindness. Also, rarely, shingles can spread to the nerves in the inner ear, which can lead to hearing loss, vertigo and loss of balance.

It can take up to six weeks for shingles pain to go away completely. Sometimes, shingles can do long-lasting damage to a nerve, which may result in pain, numbness, or tingling for months or years after the rash has healed completely (this is called "post-herpetic neuralgia").


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Last Revised: November 11, 2008

This content is written by the POZ and AIDSmeds editorial team. For more information, please visit our "About Us" page.

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