Frequently Asked Questions

5. What complications can arise from shingles?

The most common complication of shingles is pain -- a condition called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up. In most patients, the pain usually clears up in a few weeks or months, but some people can have pain from PHN for years.

Shingles may also lead to other serious complications.

  • Outbreaks that start on the face or eyes can cause vision or hearing problems. Even permanent blindness can result if the cornea of the eye is affected.
  • Bacterial infection of the open sores can lead to scarring.
  • In a very small number of cases, bacteria can cause more serious conditions, including toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis, a severe infection that destroys the soft tissue under the skin.
  • The burning waves of pain, loss of sleep, and interference with even basic life activities can cause serious depression.
  • In patients with immune deficiency, the rash can be much more extensive than usual and the illness can be complicated by pneumonia. These cases are more serious, but they are rarely fatal.
  • Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, brain inflammation (encephalitis), or death.