Stages of Shingles

Shingles is the health condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same responsible for chickenpox. Every year, an outbreak of shingles affects millions of people in the United States. The viral infection responsible for the condition is characterized by itching, tingling, and fluid-filled blisters, and usually found with those living with HIV. The symptoms of shingles can be horribly painful, and what makes it to be strange is that its symptoms can be similar to the ones of other health conditions, from poison ivy to a drug rash.


The Different Stages of Shingles


The immune system protects the body against everything which causes sicknesses and diseases. However, as one ages, or if there is a serious certain health condition like HIV/AIDS or cancer involved, the immune system can be made weak, making it possible for the varicella virus to be reactivated for shingles to develop.


Three stages of shingles exist, and as symptoms change as the condition progresses.


Prodromal Stage


This stage is called prodromal stage, and it is the early stage that is experienced 3 or 4 days before the rash appears, burning, pain, tickling, numbness and tingling begin to be felt on the affected area. In some cases, the sufferer may experience flu-like symptoms, in addition to stomachache, chills and swelling of the lymph nodes.


Active or Eruptive Stage


This is called the eruptive stage because it is when the strips and first bands of rash start appearing on the body, and only a side of the body is affected. The common areas are the face and torso, and within some days, the rash will turn into blisters. It can be a very excruciating experience for some people, with itching, numbness, tingling or burning in the area where the rash forms. The pain can be felt in the chest or face, penetrating from the front to back, and if there is no rash, both patients and physicians can be confused by those symptoms, so that they can mistake the disease for heart attack, an ulcer pain, appendicitis, migraine or a lower back disorder.


Post-Herpetic Neuralgia


Even after you no longer have the rash, the pain is still likely to persist. It is a complication called postherpetic neuralgia. It is a stage common where the shingles is severe. It is a stage characterized by burning, extreme aching, persistent pain, stabbing, and tremendous sensitivity, and can be there for close to a month. For many people, the stage ends after 1 to 3 months, and after a year, almost everyone will no longer have the pain.




Crusting is one of the things experienced after 7 to 10 days of shingles. As the scabs of the blisters fall off, one may notice that the pigmentation of the skin is not regular. It is a temporary change, with the rash clearing after 2-3 weeks.


If the rash is covered, the risk of spreading shingles is always very low. Therefore, if you have shingles, you should cover the rash; it is also necessary not to scratch or touch the rash, and you should always wash your hands to prevent the spread. After crusts have developed from the rash, shingles will no longer be contagious.

  1. Rosemarie Gaber
    Nov 11th, 2012 at 09:27 | #1

    I have shingles on my face, above my eye, in my eyebrow, eye, ear and scalp
    I am taking Valtrex and several other medicines for neuralgia and for the nerves. I am mostly bothered right now with the scalp and head pain so severe I want to scream.
    What is the best thing to use to wash the hair and stop the pain?

  2. Ed
    Apr 7th, 2013 at 14:52 | #2


    Its best to keep them away from water as much as possible as the water evaporating from your skin causes the blisters to dry-out further. When you do need to wash, a soap substitute usually used with eczema patients is a good option or failing that a fragrance free soap does the job.

    I’m sure this is a bit too late to help but might help someone else out there.

    Source: I had shingles twice last year.

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