What Does Shingles Look Like? Shingles Rash Pictures

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roofing sheet, herpes zoster (HZ), is an outbreak of skin rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Although the rash may look like chickenpox at first, shingles tends to have a unique appearance as it progresses and causes clusters of blisters.

Photographs of people with shingles also show another stark difference: Unlike the chickenpox rash, which eventually appears all over, the shingles rash tends to occur as a “stripe” on one side. of body.

It is important to get a proper diagnosis because shingles can have serious complications in some cases.

This article discusses what shingles looks and feels like. It includes pictures of rashes both at certain stages and under specific circumstances.

Progression of shingles symptoms

Shingles really doesn’t happen without a previous chickenpox infection. VZV lies dormant in the nerve root after you recover, where it can reactivate years later, coming back as shingles. But although they share the same viral cause, the two conditions are different.

The first sign of shingles is usually a burning or throbbing pain in a band around the waist, chest, abdomen, or back.

You may itch or become extremely sensitive even to light touch. The weight of the bed sheet on your skin can be uncomfortable. You may also experience fatigue, fever, and headaches.

After a few days or even up to a few weeks, a shingles rash will appear. This rash consists of fluid-filled blisters that get worse quickly. The blisters may look like chickenpox, but they are clustered together.

The shingles rash can vary in color, depending on your skin tone. On dark skin, the rash can be pink, gray, dark brown, or even purple. On lighter skin, it will be red.

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This is the stage where VZV can be transmitted to people who have never or have not been vaccinated against chickenpox.

The blisters usually scab over within a week to 10 days. Shingles usually takes three to five weeks to progress through all of its stages.

Initial Shingles Rash

After feeling moderate to severe stinging or burning pain, red patches of skin with small blisters will cluster in the painful area.

Joel Carillet / Getty Images

Shingles blisters

These patches quickly grow and turn into groups of small blisters.

Image franciscodiazpagador / Getty

The blisters are usually filled with pus and can be itchy.

pinglabel / Getty Images

At this stage, your blisters may burst or drain. If your rash is crying, it’s important to keep it clean to prevent infection and cover it up to avoid spreading VZV to others.

Your doctor can usually diagnose shingles by taking a look at your medical history and looking at your rash. In some cases, your doctor may take a sample of fluid from one of the blisters to verify the diagnosis.

This period can last up to five days.

The “belt” of shingles

The blisters usually appear in single stripes, appearing on one side of the body (usually around the trunk) or all over the face. This so-called “ring” of shingles is one of the most common symptoms of shingles.

This happens because, most of the time, shingles occurs after Dermatology. This is a branch of the sensory nerve that comes from a single spinal nerve, where the VZV has “hidden” dormant.

File / Wikimedia Commons

Although rare, shingles can affect many areas of the skin. This can lead to a shingles rash spreading all over the body.

This rash pattern is easily identified by doctors and aids in the diagnosis of shingles.

Although shingles most commonly appears on the skin, it can affect any part of the body, including internal organs.

Benefits of Treatment

There is no cure for shingles. However, antiviral medications can shorten the duration and make your case less severe, especially when taken within the first three days after the rash appears. Pain will likely subside within three to five weeks.

Scales and scabs

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During this stage, the blisters begin to dry and crust over. At this point, you are no longer considered contagious.

The scales turn yellow and can take two to 10 days to form.

As the blisters heal and the scabs fall off, your skin may be slightly discolored as it continues to heal.

Special cases

There are some important things to watch out for when looking for a shingles rash, as they are a sign of potentially serious problems. An infection is one, a rash in the eye area is another.

Rashes caused by shingles infection

Scratching shingles blisters — or crusting as the rash heals — increases the risk of a bacterial infection. This can slow your healing time and even lead to scarring.

Photo Phadungsakphoto / Getty

Do not scratch the rash area. Instead, pat your skin to satisfy its need to itch. Using over-the-counter medications like calamine lotion and oatmeal baths can also help.

See a healthcare provider right away if you notice the area becoming red, swollen, or hot to the touch.

Shingles rash on eyes

Shingles eye, or herpes zoster eye (HZO), is when a shingles rash is in and/or around the eyes. This is a severe variant that affects 20% of people with the infection.

If you develop a shingles rash near your eyes, contact your healthcare provider right away.

lauraag / Getty Images

HZO usually appears within two to four weeks of the onset of the shingles rash. People with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, are at a higher risk of developing this disease.

All parts of the eye may be affected. For example:

  • You may have blisters around your eyes that cause your eyelids and surrounding area to swell.
  • The cornea – the transparent part at the front of the eye – can be affected, causing calcification (white clouds over the iris).
  • The blood vessels in the eye may become more obvious; Blood flow to the eye may be affected.

To reduce your risk of long-term eye complications, contact your healthcare provider right away if you develop a shingles rash on your face.

A Guide to Discussing with a Shingles Doctor

Get our printable guide to your next appointment with a healthcare provider to help you ask the right questions.


Shingles is a red, blistering, painful rash that develops as a result of reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. It usually appears as a stripe along nerve pathways, called dermatoses. The blisters will scab over within a week to 10 days. The pain can take three to five weeks to subside.

People with suppressed immune systems – due to medication or other illnesses – should talk to their doctor if they develop shingles.

A very good word

If you think you have shingles, it’s important to contact your doctor so that they can get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment to avoid any complications. This is a particular concern if you are immunosuppressed.

The best way to avoid getting shingles is to get the chickenpox vaccine as a child. If you’ve had chickenpox, you can get the shingles vaccine when you’re 50 or older.

frequently asked Questions

  • Where does shingles usually appear?

    Shingles develops on one side of the face or body. In many cases, it will appear as a stripe along the left or right side of the body. It is considered rare for shingles to become widespread throughout the body.

  • How does shingles feel?

    You may feel burning or stinging in the places where the rash will appear. Depending on its location, the rash can be painful. In some cases, there may be fever, headache, muscle aches, stomach pain, and vomiting.

  • Can I get shingles if I already have chickenpox?

    Right. Chickenpox is the main VZV infection that most people get as children. After you recover, the virus travels to the roots of the spinal and cranial nerves, where it remains dormant. Shingles occurs if the virus is reactivated, which most often occurs in adulthood.

  • How is shingles treated?

    Shingles can be treated with antiviral drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famiciclovir. These drugs require a prescription from a healthcare provider. A wet compress or calamine lotion can help relieve itching and discomfort. Pain relievers may also be helpful.

  • Is shingles contagious?

    Incorrect. You cannot give someone shingles yourself, but you can pass the varicella-zoster virus to people who are not immune to chickenpox. In that case, the person will develop chickenpox, not shingles.

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