What are the stages of shingles - featured image

What Are The Stages of Shingles?

Updated November 9, 2023

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral illness which leads to the appearance of painful eruptions and rashes. Most people who get shingles experience the rash and blisters on one side of the body. From the tingling itch on the skin to the painful blisters, shingles is a condition that affects many. While it can be uncomfortable and worrisome at times, understanding the stages of shingles may help make it easier to manage. In this article, let's take a closer look at the different stages of shingles and how they should be handled.

Dermeleve banner

What are the major symptoms of shingles?

The viral infection called shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. This is the The virus stays in your body and can remain inactive for years until it is reactivated. People who have had chickenpox in the past are more likely to develop shingles.
Symptoms of shingles can vary. The most typical first signs of a shingles outbreak are an aching prickling or itching sensation on one side of the body or face. Other signs include a band of pain around the whole body.
This first stage of symptoms caused by shingles usually lasts between one and five days. It's characterized by flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, chills, fatigue, and body aches. After one to five days, an itchy skin rash caused by the virus may appear on one side of the body or face. This rash will often be in the form of a strip or patch of blisters that can be painful. The rash usually follows a path along a nerve pathway from the spine to one side of the face or body.
Shingles on the neck


Once this painful rash appears, it can start to form painful blisters filled with fluid. These are characteristic of the later stages of a shingles infection.
In some cases, shingles can also cause neuralgia. This is a sharp tingling or burning feeling that can cause persistent and severe pain for several days after the rash has gone away.

Is Shingles Contagious? 

The fluid-filled blisters can break open, releasing a liquid containing the varicella-zoster virus. This liquid is contagious and can spread shingles to others. Eventually, the shingles blisters crust and gradually heal, with the scabs fading over the course of several weeks.
shingles on skin close up

The severity of shingles symptoms typically can vary from person to person. It is often dependent on the individual’s overall health and weakened immune system. In addition to the common symptoms of shingles, other less common symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue. Some also experience sensitivity to light. People may also experience shingles pain localized in the area where the virus has affected the nerve cells. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia and tends to be more severe in elderly people.

For most people, the symptoms of shingles will usually last between two and four weeks. Treatment for shingles resolves many of the issues, though some pain can persist if the proper medication is not administered. Treatment can include starting antiviral medication. This can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. In some cases, painkillers or antidepressants may be prescribed to help manage the extreme pain. Shingles is a virus and can weaken your immune system. Therefore, it is important to take steps to prevent the spread of the infection. This includes avoiding contact with people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.

What is the process for getting shingles diagnosed and treated? 

Diagnosis of shingles typically begins with a doctor examining the skin rash, often within a few days of when it first appears. The doctor may also take a swab of the rash to test for the virus or take a blood test to see if there are any antibodies present in the body. Treatment for shingles will depend on the severity of the infection. It is also dependent on the patient's individual health situation.
Starting antiviral medication treatment early is critical. This can aid in reducing the severity and duration of the infection. It is also important to treat the symptoms of shingles, such as pain, itching and burning, to help speed up the healing process. In some cases, topical treatments such as creams and ointments can be used to reduce inflammation and help soothe the skin.
A non-steroidal anti-itch cream like Dermeleve® is recommended as it is a safe alternative to topical steroids. Common topical steroids include hydrocortisone cream. Corticosteroids take longer to reduce the itch and pain. They can also cause serious side effects and even withdrawal symptoms if used for an extended period of time.


A tube of Dermeleve

Dermeleve®, on the other hand, starts working immediately, lasts for hours, and can safely be used as frequently as needed.
Dermeleve® has recently released a scalp serum for scalp itch, that can be particularly helpful for those with singles on their scalp. 

In severe cases, oral steroids may be prescribed to reduce the pain and speed up healing. In addition, a vaccine may be recommended for people who have had shingles in the past or who are at risk of a future outbreak.

How long does shingles last for?

Most cases of shingles last from two to four weeks, although it may take much longer for the tingling pain and itching to subside. It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may have shingles so that treatments can be started promptly. With prompt treatment, the severity and duration of the infection can be reduced. It is also important to be aware of the risk factors associated with getting shingles. This way you can take measures to protect yourself.

Who is most at risk for shingles?

After a person has had chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus remains dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later, causing shingles. This means that if you have had chickenpox, you can develop shingles. They are caused by the same virus. So it is important to know the risk factors and how to reduce the risk of getting shingles.
If you've had chickenpox, you can develop shingles.

What's the best way to prevent shingles?

Age is the most important risk factor for shingles. The risk of developing shingles increases with age and the highest risk is among the elderly. Other risk factors include a weakened immune system. This can be caused be chronic illnesses such as cancer, HIV, and diabetes. Medications can also suppress the immune system.

Age is one of the most important risk factors for developing shingles.

It is important to understand the risk factors for developing shingles and to know what to do to reduce the risk. To reduce the risk of developing shingles, there are a few recommended steps. The first is to get vaccinated, eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, manage stress, and practice good hygiene. It is also important to stay informed, as there is no cure for shingles but there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms.

Who should get the shingles vaccine? 

When it comes to preventing shingles, the shingles vaccine is an important way to protect yourself. The shingles vaccine, or Shingrix, is recommended for adults aged 50 and older. This can help prevent shingles and reduce the risk of complications from the virus.
The shingles vaccine is very effective at preventing shingles.
The Shingrix vaccine is a two-dose series, with the second dose given 2 to 6 months after the first. It is important to receive both doses for the vaccine to be most effective in preventing shingles in people.
It is generally recommended that adults get the vaccine even if they have had shingles in the past. This is because the vaccine can help prevent future occurrences of the virus. The vaccine is also recommended for adults aged 50 and older who have never had chickenpox, as they are still at risk of getting shingles.
The Shingrix vaccine is highly effective at preventing outbreaks of shingles, but it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee.
To further reduce the risk of shingles, it is important to practice good hygiene and get plenty of rest and exercise. Eating a healthy diet and avoiding stress can also help prevent shingles. If you have been exposed to chickenpox, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Discuss whether you should receive a dose of the chickenpox vaccine to further reduce your risk.

Why does shingles occur on only one side of the body?

The varicella-zoster virus is usually dormant in the body after a person has had chickenpox. However, the virus can be reactivated due to a weakened immune system, old age, or stress. In some cases, it is not known why the virus has been reactivated.

Shingles Infographic


Once the virus has been reactivated, it travels along the nerve fibers to the skin, causing inflammation and pain. Shingles is typically found on one side of the body. This is because the virus follows specific nerve paths, corresponding to the section of the nerve that is sending signals. The shingles rash remains mostly within this particular region. 

Shingles travels along the nerve fibers to the skin.
The rash usually appears in clusters of red bumps, and is often accompanied by itching and burning sensations. If left untreated, shingles can cause long-term nerve pain, known as postherpetic neuralgia. This condition is extremely painful and may be characterized by a recurrent pain if other symptoms do not improve. Treatment for shingles usually consists of antiviral medications and pain medications.

What are the four stages of shingles?

The four stages of shingles are prodromal, rash, post-rash, and neuralgia. The prodromal stage, or pre-eruptive stage, is the first stage of shingles. It is characterized by tingling, burning, and itching sensations in the affected area.
This is the initial appearance of symptoms.  These early signs of shingles may occur up to a week before an unusual rash develops and blisters that eventually burst appear. The rash stage, also know as the acute eruptive stage, is when a painful skin rash develops on one side of the body.
It is often accompanied by fever, fatigue, and headache. This stage is the primary symptom, and usually lasts for three to five days after the tingling sensation. This stage results in the red rash turning into painful blisters filled with contagious fluid. Eventually, the blistering rash clears, and the blisters begin to dry out.
Once the rash has cleared, scabs form.  The post-rash phase of shingles is the recovery period after the blisters have disappeared. The scabs will begin to heal but the area may be very sensitive. During this stage, the risk of spreading the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox is highest.
 Lastly, the neuralgia, or chronic stage refers to pain that persists in the affected area even after the blisters have healed. Patients can develop long-term pain that can last for weeks, months or even years after the initial shingles outbreak.  Nerve pressure (paresthesia) or nerve damage (dysesthesia), may cause abnormal skin sensations. These include tingling, burning, and numbness.
Shingles is a painful and very serious condition that affects many people. We can't stress enough the importance of understanding its stages and symptoms. This is be best way to manage it properly and reduce the risk of complications.
Shingles blisters


The most common problem associated with shingles is postherpetic neuralgia. This is a nerve pain that can persist for weeks or months after the outbreak has resolved. This condition can be treated with medications and physical therapy. In severe cases, a nerve block may be used to control the pain.
Other potential problems can include blisters on your face and even eye damage from inflammation and scarring. However, these problems are less common.
Treatment for eye shingles can include antiviral medications, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. Another issue related to shingles is depression and anxiety. People with shingles may experience feelings of sadness and fear due to the pain and discomfort. Treatment for these emotional issues may include counseling and antidepressant medications. It is important to remember that emotional support is also important for managing shingles.
Finally, shingles can sometimes lead to other health problems, such as pneumonia or meningitis. These problems can be serious and require immediate medical attention. Treatment may include antibiotics, antiviral medications, and/or hospitalization.
Overall, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of shingles. It's best to do this before the rash starts in order to properly manage the condition and reduce the risk of complications. In addition, it is important to recognize the potential problems associated with shingles and take steps to address them. This includes treating postherpetic neuralgia, eye inflammation and scarring.

Additional steps include addressing depression and anxiety. It's also important to get immediate medical attention in the case of serious complications.

Dermeleve banner


The stages of shingles can vary in length and severity, but in every case, it is important to get treatment as soon as possible. This is the best way to ensure the best possible outcome. Treatment options may involve antiviral medication, steroids, and/or painkillers. It is all dependent on the severity of the case. For immediate, safe and long-lasting shingles relief, try Dermeleve®.

Appropriate medical attention and ongoing care are of utmost importance. This is the best way for shingles to be effectively managed and the painful symptoms to be minimized.