Frequently Asked Questions

4. How is shingles diagnosed?

A typical shingles case is easy to diagnose. A healthcare provider might suspect shingles if

  • the rash is only on one side of the body
  • the rash erupts along one of the many nerve paths, called dermatomes, that stem from the spine.

A healthcare provider usually confirms a diagnosis of shingles if the person also

  • reports a sharp, burning pain
  • has had chickenpox
  • has blisters that look like chickenpox
  • is elderly.

Other symptoms of shingles can include

  • fever
  • headache
  • chills
  • upset stomach.

Some people go to their healthcare provider because of burning, painful, itchy sensations on one area of skin, but they don't get a rash. If there is no rash, the symptoms can be difficult to diagnose because they can be mistaken for numerous other diseases.

In cases where there is no rash or the diagnosis is questionable, healthcare providers can do a blood test. If there is a rash, but it does not resemble the usual shingles outbreak, a healthcare provider can examine skin scrapings from the sores.