Shingles is a blistery rash that wraps around the body from the spine to the breast bone. Occasionally, shingles spreads to the scalp, face or neck. The condition causes extreme pain, but until the first blister appears it can be hard to determine that shingles is the cause.
Mistaking shingles for the flu isn't unusual. It can cause stomach upset, abdominal pain and headache. These can also be accompanied by fever and chills.
The Path of the Virus
Shingles has an unusual pattern on the skin. It follows the path of a certain nerve that travels from the spine, wraps around the side and terminates at the breast bone.
Before the Rash
Burning, tingling and numbness can occur before the rash appears on the skin. A red rash appears a few days later.
The shingles rash starts as small red spots that fill with fluid. They eventually burst, leaving a crusty scab.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. If chickenpox isn't killed off completely, the virus can lay dormant in the nervous system for years before re-emerging.