Pain in shingles

The first symptom of shingles is usually discomfort or pain on an area of the skin, without any visible signs (known as prodromal pain). After a couple of days, however, redness appears on the skin at the site of the pain, and soon the characteristic skin rash associated with shingles appears.

The rash is often accompanied by pain which, in some cases, can be very severe. It can be persistent or episodic and is often described as burning, stabbing or itching. It is not uncommon for the area affected to become excessively sensitive to touch, heat or cold. Something that normally does not hurt at all, for example clothing or bed linen against the skin, may feel very painful.

The pain generally clears once the rash dries up and heals, which usually happens within a month. Sometimes, however, the pain can last for a longer period of time. This is because the nerves along which the virus spread when it was reactivated may have been damaged by the infection.

This long-term nerve pain, known as postherpetic neuralgia, is the most common complication of shingles. It rarely affects younger people, but the older a person is when they get shingles, the greater the risk of this and other complications.

Read more about postherpetic neuralgia here.