How Long Does Shingles Last?
The same virus responsible for chicken pox in children and adults also causes shingles. After getting the chicken pox, most people develop immunity to that disease; but unfortunately, the virus can reactivate and cause the excruciatingly painful disease known as shingles. Shingles actually lasts about the same length of time as chicken pox, but there are other variables that can lengthen its stay. When doctors are asked this question, “how long does shingles last?”, they have many answers to give.
Shingles has three stages. The first stage will last about three to five days and the stage resembles the flu, but without a fever. Those who are in stage one will have symptoms like headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and chills. The fact that these flu-like symptoms are not connected to a fever should be a key trigger to call the doctor and find out if you have shingles.
Stage two is the classic shingles stage. Physicians call this the active shingles stage and it lasts about seven to ten days. The stage of the disease is the one where rashes develop in one part of the body. The first stage of the rash, which includes redness and little pimple-like spots will last about one to two days. The last four to six days are filled with uncomfortable and painful blisters that will grow, possible pop, and then scab and crust over, much to the suffers’ dismay.
Stage three can be the worst part of all. After suffering from the ugliness of shingles rash, the neurological effects can last from a month to a lifetime. The virus that causes shingles attacks the nerve roots and the lasting effects can be horrible. About 10 to 15 percent of adults who develop shingles will have long lasting effects can postherpetic neuralgia. This is a problem where the skin remains highly sensitive to the touch as a result of shingles. There are some people who have very mild cases that wane over time and there are people who will experience intolerable pain just from the sensation of their clothing touching the sensitive areas of the skin.
Another problem with the length of time that shingles lasts is the healing process. After the rash and blisters have scabbed and crusted, they still have to heal. When children would develop chicken pox, they would have the blisters for a few days and then be healed within a couple of week. Unfortunately, everything seems to take longer and is absolutely worse in adulthood. Because adults take longer to heal, many people have to wait up to one month or more before the blisters have completely healed. Sadly, too, many adults have permanent scarring from the blisters, especially if they were scratching or picking at them.
Shingles is not a fun disease for anyone. The pain, appearance, and persistence of the disease should encourage those at risk to get vaccinated. At this time, there is not a cure for the disease.