Shingles and Complications

A Very Serious Illness
Shingles can cause serious complications. The shingles rash runs along the course of a nerve and turns into small, fluid-filled blisters on the nearby skin that then dry out and crust.

The shingles virus causes inflammation, bleeding, and scarring around the nerve, eating away at the nerve area. Even brief self-limited cases result in two to three weeks of intense pain. Those are the lucky cases. About one in five people with shingles will suffer long term nerve pain or postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Long Term Nerve Pain
Nerve pain is different in both severity and quality from the type of pain people commonly experience. The CDC's Advisory Committee found that, "Approximately half of patients with shingles or PHN describe their pain as 'horrible' or 'excruciating', ranging in duration from a few minutes to constant on a daily or almost daily basis."

The pain can disrupt sleep, mood, work, and activities of daily living. This painful condition can last months, or even years, and has no consistently effective treatment. Shingles has also been identified as a cause of pain-related suicide and addiction to pain medication. See Shingles Pain and Nerve Damage (video).

Ocular Shingles
Shingles can occur anywhere in the body, but it is common on the face and in and around the eye. Approximately 10%-25% of cases involve ocular shingles which frequently results in inflammation or ulceration of the cornea and other eye complications.

Additional Complications
Very rarely, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, paralysis, facial palsy, scarring, brain inflammation, or death. For more information about shingles visit www.cdc.gov/shingles.

Shingles Prevention Advocate does not practice medicine, and no information presented on this website is medical advice or intended as a substitute for the advice of a physician.

Scarring Video

Scarring Video

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"The discomfort is so intense at times that you almost wish that you don't wake up in the morning."

NIH Senior Health Video Transcript - Erwin Cohen