Shingles is not a skin ailment, but rather is an acute inflammation of a nerve ganglia (see "What is shingles" for the real truth about shingles).

Shingles can happen to anyone, at any age or any level of health, who has ever in their life had chicken pox. Which means, everyone who has ever had chicken pox is at risk. You have no more than 72 hours to get on antiviral meds to curtail shingles. If you don't get on them within 72 hours you are out of luck and will have to let shingles run its course, in which case you will be at higher risk of long term complications (aka 'forever pain').

Incidents of shingles are on the increase, ironically thanks to the effectiveness of the chicken pox virus. Since we aren't getting re-exposed to chicken pox as adults, our immunity to it wanes and lays the groundwork for the dormant shingles virus inside us to take hold.

 Make sure you know what the real tell-tale signs of shingles are:
  1. A sudden onset of burning unexplained pain, confined to one specific area on only one side of the body. 
  2. The pain will quickly lead to a feeling that the area is in a vice grip; like it's cramping or being squeezed (if you've ever given natural birth, think labor pains in one specific area). 
  3. A day or so after the onset of pain, you may experience numbness over the entire affected area. The numbness does not alleviate the pain - instead it feels like there is a deep layer of pain covered by a more external area of numbness just under the skin.
  4. A rash may or may not appear and may be quite small if it does. Do not rely on the presence of a rash as your guide. If it's there, it just makes the diagnosis easier; the absence of a rash means nothing either way.
If you have the tell-tale signs of shingles described above, insist on a blood test to check for shingles and see if you're a candidate for treatment. Remember, you have only 72 hours to act.


  1. Thanks for writing this blog. I am a 39 year old mother of two, fairly active and overall eat a healthy balanced diet. About three weeks ago I got a pain in my lower left abdomen that got worse over four days. On day four I started having chills, fever and body aches along with the left side pain. At this point it was Saturday and I did not want to wait to see my Doctor on Monday, so I went to the ER. The ER doctor thought the pain and fever were cause by diverticulitis, but she did not do a Cat Scan. That Doctor put me on Cipro, a very strong antibiotic. The pain went away before I started the cipro, but I took it anyway. My fever lasted another four days. 10 days later the pain came back, this time it was much worse and nothing worked to relieve it. I also had a numb feeling along with the pain, but no fever. The pain got so bad that I went the ER again. We happened to be on vacation so it was a different ER. This time the Doctor thought it was kidney stones and ordered a cat scan. The cat scan showed NO kidney stones and NO diverticulitis. The Doctor said that the pain and numbness sounded like Shingles but he told me I couldn't have it because I did not have the rash. I went home and looked online and found out many people have had shingles without a rash. I will go to my Doctor tomorrow and hopefully I can convince them to give me the blood test. I have been in constant pain for 5 days and have only been getting a few hours of sleep a night.

  2. Thank you for the description. It's amazingly hard to find good medical information on the official medical sites. Why don't they have a section where people can post descriptions and experiences of their own. They just keep parroting each other and that's unhelpful. Thank you so much for being specific.

  3. Just want to share my experience. It started out with a few spots around the right side of my waistline that looked like insect bites so I didn't think much of them. After a day or 2, I started experiencing a strange tingling that was only on the right side of my body, front and back, almost like an electric current that would increase when touched but I still wouldn't have described it as pain. I've seen upset stomach as a rare symptom and incidentally, I did have diarrhea at this point but it wasn't serious. After a day or two of this, still no pain, but I noticed a couple more red patches appearing slightly higher up on the right side of my back and I went to the docs. He confirmed it was Shingles and I started on Acyclovir. That day (I'd say it would be around day 4 after first seeing spots), the patches started to get a little itchy and in the evening, I started to get pains in that area of my body, sharp, shooting pains like cramps. I imagine it would have been a lot worse had the doc not prescribed me Gabapentin for the pain. Over the next 2 days, tiny spots/blisters appeared on some of my red patches. Currently on day 3 of meds and hoping my experience doesn't turn into some of the horrors I've read here!