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Symptoms of Shingles

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Symptoms of Shingles

Shingles start with itching, burning, tingling, or painful feelings in a band-like area on one side of the body. A skin rash appears about 3 to 4 days after these symptoms.

Early Symptoms

Early symptoms happen three to four days before the rash and may be:

  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Tiredness
  • Nervousness
  • Skin discomfort on one side of the face, torso, trunk, back, or buttocks. It may include:
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Itching
    • Burning or stinging
    • Shooting pain or sharp pain
    • Electric shock
    • Extreme sensitivity to even light touch

Symptoms of Active Shingles

This period starts with a rash in the same area as the early symptoms. A person may have:

  • A rash that starts as a reddish band or individual bumps in a line
  • Fluid-filled centers in the bumps
  • Bumps drying and crusting over
  • Pain (may be severe) and itching in the area of the rash
  • Rash on the side of the nose or other parts of the face— this can be a sign that the eye is affected. Call the doctor right away for this.

For most people, active shingles is gone within a week to a month. Some people have pain after the rash has healed. This is called postherpetic neuralgia. It can be severe and limit activities.


  • About shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html.
  • Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/herpes-zoster.
  • Saguil, A., Kane, S., et al. Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia: prevention and management. American Family Physician, 2017; 96 (10): 656-663.
  • Shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Shingles-Information-Page.
  • Shingles. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/shingles-treatment.


  • James Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.