What Are The Complications of Shingles

Shingles is a virus which is caused as a result of the reactivation of the herpes varicella-zoster virus which remains in the nerve tissue after a bout of chickenpox. After chickenpox has healed, particles of the herpes varicella-zoster virus remain dormant inside the body; they are kept that way by the body’s immune system. A weakening of the immune system, which is the body’s natural defence, can cause the virus to multiply and cause infection to one or several nerves and the area of skin in the surrounding area.

The shingles virus will generally last 2-5 weeks and symptoms can be helped with various treatments which are designed to help with the pain and the rash. There are also after effects of shingles that can be felt for a long time after the virus has gone and it leads to the frequently asked question of “what are the complications of shingles?” There are virus different possible complications, some more common than others.

Complications of shingles on the face

Shingles generally effects the chest, abdomen and ribs down either the left of right side of the body, there are however a number of cases where the virus effects the face and in particular the eye. There are various answers to “what are the complications of shingles?” when referring to the eye. Shingles of the face is known as ophthalmic shingles and it affects the trigeminal nerve which controls movement in the face, this can lead to potential dangers concerning the eye, these include:

  • Sores and sometimes permanent scarring of the cornea (surface of the eye)
  • Uveitis is also common; this causes a swelling and inflammation of the iris and inner eye muscle.


A complication called Ramsay Hunt Syndrome can occur when the shingles virus affects certain nerves in the head. This complication is thought to affect around 5 people out of every 100,000 and leads to a number of ill affects including:

  • Dizziness
  • Vertigo
  • Loss of taste
  • Earache
  • Rash around the ears
  • Tinnitus
  • Hearing loss
  • Bell’s palsy


It is important with any of these complications, to seek immediate medical advice.

Postherpetic Neuralgia complications

This part of “what are the complications of shingles?” will look at what is the most common of all the shingles related complications, postherpetic neuralgia. This condition causes severe and prolonged nerve pain after the shingles rash has disappeared, it is estimated that around two in ten people will suffer from this condition after shingles with one third of sufferers over the age of 80. This condition is normally diagnosed when a person has continued to suffer nerve pain for around three months after shingles has disappeared.

There are different types of pain that can be felt with postherpetic neuralgia with common symptoms including:

  • Burning, throbbing and aching in the affected area
  • Stabbing and shooting pains
  • Hyperalgesia which makes a person very sensitive to pain
  • Allodynia which causes pain from even the lightest of touch


It is best to find conclusive answers to “what are the complications of shingles?” from a GP, it is from a GP that you will also receive the correct treatment.




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