How can you recognise a shingles rash?

The shingles rash often has a very distinctive appearance, with fluid-filled blisters on reddened skin. The rash almost always occurs only on one side of the body and in the area that has previously been painful.

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of our own dormant chickenpox virus (varicella zoster). When the virus becomes reactivated, it spreads from dorsal nerve roots and along a nerve pathway to the skin. This is why shingles-rash and pain often appears in a band or belt on the body – hence the name shingles, which comes from an old French word for belt.

It is most common for shingles to occur on an area on the trunk, but the rash can occur anywhere on the body.

The disease sometimes affects the eyes, which can become red, sensitive to light and feel dry. If you suspect that you have developed shingles close to your eye, it is important to seek medical attention quickly.

The blisters usually dry up, crust and heal within two to four weeks. The pain usually also subsides by this point. However, sometimes shingles can cause nerve damage, which in turn can cause pain persisting even once the blisters have healed. Learn more about long term nerve pain after shingles here.

If you suspect that you have shingles, it is sensible to ask a doctor to examine your rash. Read more about treating shingles.