What are the symptoms of shingles?

Shingles is triggered by the varicella zoster virus, which first causes chicken pox and then lies dormant in the body. If the virus reactivates, it can cause shingles, leading to a skin rash, blisters and often severe nerve pain that can last for weeks after the skin has healed. 

The first symptoms sign of shingles is often burning or tingling pain or itch in one particular location on only one side of the body. After several days or a week, a rash of fluid-filled blisters, similar to chickenpox, appears in one area on one side of the body. Recent studies have shown that subtle cases of shingles with only a few lesions or none are more common than previously thought. These cases will usually remain unrecognized. The cases without any known lesions are known as zoster sine herpete.

Shingles pain can be mild or intense. Some people have mostly itching, and some feel pain from the gentlest touch or breeze. The most common location for shingles is a band, called a dermatome, spanning one side of the trunk around the waistline. The second most common location is on one side of the face around the eye and on the forehead. However, shingles can involve any part of the body. The number of lesions is variable. Some rashes merge and produce an area that looks like a severe burn. Other patients may have just a few scattered lesions that don't cause severe symptoms.

For most healthy people, shingles rashes heal within a few weeks, the pain and itch that accompany the lesions subside, and the blisters leave no scars. Other people may have sensory symptoms that linger for a few months.

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

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