Doctors refer to the earliest stage of shingles as the prodromal stage, according to WebMD. This usually occurs several days or even weeks before the rash appears, characterized by tingling, numbness, itching or pain, usually in the back, chest, neck or abdominal area. The discomfort sometimes accompanies flu-like symptoms such as aching, chills and swollen lymph glands. The person usually does not have a fever.
Following the prodromal stage, a person with shingles usually develops a rash, which initially looks like a red band or strip on one side of the body, most often on the chest or back, explains WebMD. Doctors call this the active stage of the disease. Shortly after the rash appears, blisters develop; these usually break open and crust over after about five days. Typically, the rash lasts for several weeks. Many people also experience severe pain in the area surrounding the rash.
Following the active stage of shingles, some people develop a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia, characterized by severe burning or stabbing pain in the area where the rash appeared, states WebMD.The pain typically lasts for at least 30 days and sometimes lingers for years. Often, the affected area is also extremely sensitive to touch. Starting antiviral therapy within 72 hours of developing the shingles rash is the best way to prevent postherpetic neuralgia, Mayo Clinic explains.