What Does Shingles Look Like?

Shingles is a close relative to the chicken pox virus and the disease itself is trigger when the chicken pox virus is reactivated in adulthood. The name “shingles” actually comes from a Latin word that means belt, because of the way that the shingles rash develops in a belt-like pattern in various places on the body. Many people do not know much about shingles and they ask, “what does shingles look like?”

Stages of Shingles

Shingles is a disease that evolves through three stages. The first stage does not have any significant appearance because all of the symptoms are internal. The first stage involves developing headaches, nausea, and diarrhea – much like a minor flu. Even though the first stage resembles the flu, it does not come with a fever. The only outward appearance that those in the first stage might notice is that their lymph nodes are swollen.

No Visual Signs in Stage One

The first stage lasts about 3 to 5 days and then the real shingles begin to appear. The second, active shingles, stage is the one with the hallmark appearance. Usually the red rash appears on the torso, but it can appear anywhere on the body. It usually appears on one side. Besides the torso, the rash can appear on the face, neck, low back, or extremities, but only on one side of the body.

Visual Signs of Stage Two

The red rash will look like small red spots, but clustered in one area. Then, the red spots will begin to resemble little fluid-filled pimples. Eventually, the pimples will look more like blisters. It takes about one to two days before the pimples become large blisters. Just like chicken pox, the blisters will scab over, but instead of being very itchy, they will be very painful.

Once the internal symptoms appear, it is a good idea to make contact with your physician to discuss treatment. Quick treatment with anti-viral medication can reduce the appearance and pain from the blisters.

Watch Where the Blisters and Rash Occur

It is also a good idea to pay attention to where the red rash and blisters appear. They should be located in just one place, but if they are spread all over the body, there is a risk for internal infections. Another place to be extremely aware of is the face. If the rash appears on the face, near the eye, there is a high risk that the virus can attack the cornea. If the rash appears on the side of the nose, it is important to see an ophthalmologist immediately because that is the last place the rash will appear before the virus moves into the eye.

The active rash stage will last anywhere from seven to ten days and then the blisters will scab. As with all diseases, those who have had shingles will have to wait for the healing to happen. People with weak immune systems will take longer to heal. Some adults take over one month to heal completely and there is always the potential for scarring.

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