Learn About Shingles With These Shingles Pictures

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How You Get Shingles

Another Virus That Keeps on Giving. Photo © FDA

Shingles, or Zoster, is a painful rash that's caused by reactivation of the chicken pox virus, Varicella zoster. It has a characteristic rash that evolves over time. Sometimes shingles is confused with other rashes, but it's the only one that can potentially cause the complication, Postherpetic Neuralgia. This photo gallery covers the typical shingles rash.

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the same virus that causes chicken pox. This illustration shows how the virus causes a rash and how the rash evolves.

Reactivation of the Virus

After someone gets chicken pox the virus travels back into the body and waits, or it is dormant. Certain conditions can trigger the virus to wake up and when it does it travels up the nerve fiber to the skin surface.

Evolution of the Rash

When the virus reaches the skin surface it often causes itching, tingling, or significant pain with just a light touch. One to four days later the rash begins:

  1. The skin turns red and bumps begin to form around days 3 and 4 of the rash.
  2. These bumps quickly turn into blisters. This process may continue as new blisters appear in clusters over the next 7 days.
  3. The blisters fill with pus, then break open and crust over.
  4. After the blisters have crusted over they start to heal and the crust falls off in 2 to 3 weeks.
  5. In some people the virus causes damage to the nerves and they can develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia.

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Shingles - Day 2

Photo © Marie Griffiths

This is a photo of day 2 of a shingles outbreak.

When shingles erupts it causes the skin to turn red and then blisters begin to form. In this picture you can clearly see the redness under a crop of new blisters.

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Day 5 of Shingles Rash

Photo © Marie Griffiths

It's day 5 of the shingles rash and the rash is progressing.

Notice how most of the redness is gone. There is some redness still present but it's very mild. It looks like these blisters have moved through the pus stage to the crusting over stage.

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Day 6 of Shingles Rash

Photo © Marie Griffiths

Shingles, one day later.

By the next day almost all of the blisters have crusted over and the redness has faded even more.

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Early Shingles Rash

Photo © German Green Cross Association

This picture shows what shingles looks like early in the development of the rash.

This is another example of the early rash of shingles. Notice how red the skin underneath the blisters is. Another characteristic of an early shingles outbreak is that the blisters are different sizes. Sometimes shingles might be confused with herpes, but the blisters in herpes are generally all the same size.

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Shingles on the Back

Photo © Fisle

I imagine this poor guy was miserable.

This is an especially angry looking breakout. Notice that the rash is distributed in a band-like configuration. Shingles usually occurs on one side of the body in a band-like area called a dermatome.

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Shingles With Pus

Photo © Fisle

Same guy as the previous picture, different side of the body.

In this close up of some shingles blisters, you can see that they are starting to fill with pus. This is a normal phase in the evolution of the rash.

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Shingles on Neck

Photo © John Pozniak

Shingles is more likely to develop when immunity to the virus starts to wane. This happens naturally as we get older but it can develop at any time.

This picture also shows a shingles rash that is just a little farther along than the previous rash. The upper part of the rash has blisters that are filling up with pus, and in the lower part of the rash the blisters are starting to crust over.

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Shingles - Later Rash

Photo © Preston Hunt

The next phase of the rash comes when the blisters crust over.

This picture shows a shingles outbreak that is starting to crust over. The skin underneath is still a little red.

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