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What are the complications caused by shingles?

People with ophthalmic shingles, lesions in or around the eye and forehead , can suffer painful eye infections and in some cases immediate or delayed vision loss. People with shingles in or near the eye should see an ophthalmologist immediately. Shingles infections within or near the ear (Ramsay-Hunt syndrome) can cause hearing or balance problems as well as weakness of the muscles on the affected side of the face. In rare cases, shingles can spread into the brain or the spinal cord and cause serious complications such as stroke or meningitis (an infection of the membranes outside the brain and the spinal cord). People with shingles need to seek immediate medical evaluation if they notice neurological symptoms outside the region of the primary shingles attack. People who are immunosuppressed, whether from diseases such as HIV or medications, have an increased risk of serious complications from shingles. Most commonly, they get shingles that spreads to involve more parts of the body or shingles rashes that persist for long periods or return frequently. Many such patients are helped by taking antiviral medications on a continuous basis.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
One of the most common complications of shingles is known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This condition can cause throbbing, burning pain that persists long after the skin rash associated with shingles has disappeared. People suffering from PHN often develop depression, insomnia, and other problems. PHN can be mild or severe and disabling.

Less serious, but still annoying, is a persistent itching that lingers in some people who have had shingles. Shingles can also cause complications that may affect your vision, hearing, and balance. In rare cases, shingles can trigger strokes and other debilitating conditions.    

Talk with your doctor about how to prevent complications from shingles.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.