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Know the Signs and Symptoms of Shingles

If you’ve had chickenpox before, then you’re at risk of developing shingles. In fact, one out of three people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their life.

Causes and Symptoms

The varicella zoster virus causes both chickenpox and shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus stays in your body. Years later, it can become active again and cause shingles.

Shingles appears as a painful rash on one side of your face or body. It may be a stripe that wraps around the left or right side of your body. The rash may cover one side of your face. Once the rash shows up, it contains blisters. The blisters scab over within about seven to 10 days. It can take two to four weeks for the rash to go away.

Other signs of shingles include:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Chills

  • Upset stomach

Some people have a higher risk of getting shingles. Your risk rises as you age. If you have a weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medicine that suppresses your immune system, then your risk for shingles is higher.


There are a few antiviral medicines that can treat shingles and shorten how long your symptoms last. Pain medicine can help reduce the discomfort you may experience. You can also try soothing measures such as wet compresses, calamine lotion, and baths with colloidal oatmeal to help control the itching.

If you think you may have shingles, contact your doctor right away. The antiviral medicines work best when you start taking them as soon as the rash appears.

Online Medical Reviewer: Godsey, Cynthia, MSN, APRN, MSHE, FNP-BC
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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