Shingles is caused by herpes zoster, a virus that most of us carry from childhood, when we develop chickenpox. Chickenpox is a relatively harmless infection that resolves itself quite quickly. However, what few people know, is that it the virus remains dormant within their nervous system, where it stays for the rest of the person’s life. Usually, it hibernates within the spinal cord, where it is completely harmless. However, if the immune system is weakened, it can become active again, leading to shingles. Information on shingles duration period, unfortunately, can be quite hard to come by, because it varies depending on numerous factors. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has stated that anyone who has had chickenpox has a 20% chance of eventually also having shingles.
Information on Shingles Duration Period:
Shingles is very much a disease of stages, rather than exact numbers of days or hours. This is why the information on shingles duration period tends to focus on those stages. The overall outbreak usually happens in the same way as chickenpox infections. What this means is that during days one to three, the patient feels quite feverish and tired.
During this time, patients may also develop a painful itching, tingling, or burning sensation in one part of their skin. This is very localized, usually somewhere on the upper body. In rare cases, shingles develop on the extremities and sometimes even on the face. What is particularly common with shingles is that it is unilateral, which means that only a single side of the body is affected. This is due to the fact that the virus follows a dermatome, or nerve path, which starts in the spine and travels towards the skin’s surface.
After this phase, patients start to develop the telltale rash, which usually lasts between one or two weeks. It looks just like the chickenpox rash. After up to 14 days, those blisters scab over. Typically, it will then take another two weeks before the lesions heal.
What this means, all in all, is that the total duration of shingles can be anything from a month to a few months. It all depends, according to NIH, on the patient’s immune system, which in turn varies depending on the age, stress levels, and so on. However, it is also possible for people to develop significant complications from shingles, which can make the duration period much longer.
Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN):
PHN is a more serious chronic complication that causes patients to suffer from nerve pain long after the usual symptoms have disappeared. Even the lightest touch to the affected area can cause a burning sensation and severe pain. So much so, in fact, that many people cannot cope with wearing clothes. In some cases, although rare, these symptoms do not resolve at all.
A number of other complications also exist, such as:
- Damage to the trigeminal nerve, which leads to facial paralysis
- Damage to the cornea, leading to visual impairment or full blindness
- Pneumonia, which is potentially life-threatening
- Encephalitis, which is a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain
- Infections of the blisters