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Signs You Have Shingles Right Now

Knowing the symptoms can help save you some major pain.

You've probably seen those TV ads for the shingles vaccine, and they've blended into all the other information you see about preventative medicine on a daily basis. But there are good reasons why those ads are so omnipresent: Shingles is a potentially serious disease that's best prevented if possible, and it's important to seek early treatment for shingles symptoms to prevent long-term complications like loss of sight. These are the early signs of shingles that it's crucial to be aware of. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Shingles?

Stethoscope on wood with shingles.

The condition known as shingles is caused by the herpes zoster virus. Everyone who's had chickenpox (varicella) has remnants of that virus in their body; it's inactive, so you likely don't know you have it, and the immune system usually keeps it check. But sometimes the immune system weakens, the virus reactivates, and a person can experience a shingles outbreak. 

About one in three people will develop shingles in their lifetime, CDC data says, and nearly 1 million people develop shingles each year. Next, read about the most common signs and symptoms of shingles.

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Signs of Shingles

Woman with a rash on her face—papulopustular rosacea.

According to the CDC, the most common sign of shingles is a rash. This usually develops in a single stripe around one side of the body and may be painful and blistered; it may cause an intense burning sensation. 

The rash can occur on one side of the face, potentially affecting the eye and causing loss of vision. Rarely, the rash can be widespread on the body and look similar to chickenpox; this usually happens in people who have weakened immune systems.

A few days before the rash develops, you might feel pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash will appear.

The rash usually lasts seven to 10 days before the blisters scab over, and usually clears up in two to four weeks. But some people can experience pain or burning that lasts for months or even years.

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What to Do If You Notice Signs of Shingles

Person Videochatting With Doctor On Mobile Phone

If you notice symptoms of shingles, call your healthcare provider. They may prescribe antiviral medication that can shorten the length of the outbreak and prevent postherpetic neuralgia, body pain that's a potential long-term complication of shingles.

It's especially important to contact your doctor ASAP if you notice signs of shingles near your eye. Prompt treatment can protect your vision.  

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How to Prevent Shingles

Hands in blue gloves are typing a yellow vaccine in a syringe

Your risk of getting shingles—and complications like postherpetic neuralgia—increases with age. To prevent shingles, the CDC recommends that everyone over age 50 get two doses of Shingrix, the shingles vaccine

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Check-in for coronavirus vaccination against Covid-19 with doctor in the background.

While you're getting up to date on your shingles vaccine, get fully vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19. Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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