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Shingles Painful Rash Symptoms Virus Cause Risk Prevention Treating

cristina-gottardi-6Frs5Cht6Pc-unsplash shingles painful rash

Last updated 02/27/2022

If you had chickenpox as a child the virus still lives in your nervous system. You are at high risk for this condition. Shingles painful rash.

The chickenpox virus becomes reactivated years later in your body. Shingles is a viral infection resulting in a painful rash. Furthermore shingles can develop anywhere on your body.

It is not exactly known what reactivates this virus. A weakened or compromised immune system can also trigger shingles. However there are more than 200,000 cases every year in the United States alone.

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What is Shingles?

Shingles is an infection due to chickenpox. It is also called herpes zoster. In short chickenpox comes before shingles.

Varicella-zoster is a family of viruses called herpes viruses. Chickenpox and shingles belong in this family. Included are the viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes.

However, they are in the same family but not that closely related. The virus causing chickenpox and shingles is not the one that causes cold sores and genital herpes.

Rarely does it develop more than one time in the same person. But you can get shingles more than once.


Shingles Cause

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This virus also causes chickenpox. Therefore if you’ve had chickenpox you could develop shingles.

This is because the virus enters your nervous system after having chickenpox and becomes dormant for years. It lives close to your spinal cord and brain. After that it could reactivate and go along your nerves forming shingles on your skin surface. However if you’ve had chickenpox this doesn’t mean you will get shingles.

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Risk Factors for Shingles

I have had chickenpox as a kid so I can develop shingles. This puts me into the category of most adults in the United States who had chickenpox before the vaccine. Most importantly there is now a vaccine for children that protects against chickenpox.

Being Over 50

Shingles is more common in people over 50 years of age.

Certain Diseases

If you have a compromised immune system such as having HIV/AIDS, lupus or cancer your chances increase.

Cancer Treatments

Your resistance to diseases can be lower while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. In addition this can trigger shingles.

Specific Medications

Medication invented to assist with rejection of transplanted organs can raise your chances for shingles. In short extended use of steroids like prednisone.

Shingles Painful Rash Symptoms

Shingles can cause a very painful red skin rash. But it is not life threatening. Furthermore it’s usually seen as a single row of blisters twisting around your torso that can appear on either side.

         Symptoms can be:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • Sensitive when touched
  • Pain is accompanied with red rash couple days later
  • Blisters with fluid in that break open then crust over
  • Itching skin

Moreover depending on your skin pigment the rash could be dark pink, dark brown or purplish.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association other symptoms could be:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Muscle weakness

But the pain is usually the first sign of shingles. Depending on where the pain is, it could be mistaken for other health conditions. That is to say conditions affecting your heart, lungs or kidneys. Further you can experience shingle pain and never see a rash.

Shingles Painful Rash on Your Face


If the rash occurs near or in your ear it could result with an infection.

This in turn could lead to:

  • Hearing loss
  • Problems with your balance
  • Weakness with your facial muscles
  • Severe pain in one ear


It can be very painful to have shingles inside your mouth. This can fashion eating difficult and could also affect your sense of taste. Further seek treatment immediately.


Having the shingles rash appear on your scalp can cause sensitivity while combing and brushing your hair. Above all not seeking treatment, shingles here can cause permanent bald patches.

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You can have shingles develop in and around your eyes. This is called ophthalmic herpes zoster or herpes zoster ophthalmicus. Likewise, the blistering rash could develop on your eyelids, forehead and occasionally on the end or side of your nose.

Eye symptoms could be:

  • Burning or throbbing
  • Redness and tearing
  • Swelling
  • Blurred vision

After the rash clears up you could still have pain in your eye because of nerve damage. Usually this pain improves. But not seeking treatment, shingles of the eye can cause serious complications.


Usually the shingles rash will appear around one side of your waistline. But a stripe of blisters can also occur along one side of your back or lower back.


The shingles rash can occur on your buttocks. Because shingles typically affects just one side of your body you could have a rash on one buttock.

When Should you Consult Your Doctor?

Your physician should be consulted right away if you suspect shingles.

         Especially with the following:

  • The pain and rash are close to your eye. This infection when left untreated could cause permanent eye damage
  • You’re 50 or older, age will significantly higher your risk for complications
  • If you or a member of your family has a weakened immune system (because of cancer, medications or chronic illness)
  • The rash covers a large area and is painful

Are you Contagious?

If you have shingles, you can give the varicella-zoster virus to another person who isn’t immune to chickenpox. For some people chickenpox can be dangerous. Further this usually happens by having direct contact because of the open sores of the shingles rash.

Meanwhile avoid physical contact with others who haven’t had chickenpox or the vaccine for it. Further the person who becomes infected will develop chickenpox, not shingles.

By covering your shingles rash, the risk for spreading it is low. Most importantly you can’t spread the virus before your rash blisters show or once the rash crusts.

According to the CDC those having chickenpox are more likely to spread VZV than those with shingles.

Certainly stay clear of those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and newborns.

Complications from Shingles

Postherpetic Neuralgia

The most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia. Some people can continue to have shingles pain long after their blisters have healed. In conclusion because damaged nerve fibers transmit confused and exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain.

Vision Loss

Shingles rash in or near an eye can lead to painful eye infections. As a result, chronic vision loss and permanent scarring from the swelling of your cornea.

Neurological Issues

Different nerves can be affected. Shingles can lead to inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), facial paralysis, as well as hearing or balance issues.

Skin Infections

Lack of proper treatment for the blisters can result with bacterial infection; red, swollen area also warm to the touch.

No Taste

A loss of taste on your tongue could be Ramsey Hunt Syndrome.

Shingles Painful Rash and Coping

  • Soothe skin with Aloe Vera or cucumber slices
  • Take an oatmeal bath or apply calamine lotion
  • Loose fitting cotton clothing could be worn
  • Placing a cool washcloth on your blisters will aid in easing and drying them up
  • Avoid scratching your blisters to prevent infection and scarring
  • Keep the sores clean
  • Practice self-care and stress management
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet
  • Do simple stretches or walk
  • Share your feelings with loved ones so they understand what you’re going through
esther-ann-glpYh1cWf0o-unsplash shingles painful rash

Prevention for Shingles

Vaccines can help reduce your risk and I have gotten my shot. It can assist with shortening the infection and reducing your chances for complications.

A vaccine was invented to prevent shingles. In the United States Shingrix was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2017. Further studies suggest Shingrix offers protection from shingles for five years or more.

This is a non-living vaccine created from a virus component. Moreover, the vaccine is given in two doses 2-6 months apart.

Shingrix is recommended for people who are 50 or older. To sum up this includes those who received the Zostavax vaccine before or had shingles.

Above all the Zostavax vaccine is no longer used in the US. However, it may be available in other countries.

Some common side effects with the vaccines include:

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Itching

At the site of the injection and headaches.

Certainly the shingles vaccine holds no guarantee you won’t get shingles. But it will relieve its severity and your risk for postherpetic neuralgia.

Therefore the shingles vaccine is only intended as a prevention measure. It’s not meant to treat those who currently have shingles.

Shingles Versus Hives

Shingles differs from hives. Recall shingles forms blisters on your skin from a virus.

Hives results with itchy, raised welts on your skin. Above all hives are often due to an allergic reaction. To sum up this could be medication, food or something else in your environment.

Wrapping it up

Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. It appears on your skin as a painful rash of blisters. For instance in sensory organs like the eyes and ears prompt medical attention should be sought.

This virus can be prevented with a vaccination. You are contagious while your sores are opened. Most importantly avoid direct physical contact with others who could be at risk or immune to chickenpox.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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