The symptoms of shingles prior to the appearance of the rash include pain, numbness and a burning or tingling sensation. A person may also experience sensitivity to light and headaches, as well as flu-like symptoms such as diarrhea, explains WebMD.
The cause of shingles is the reactivation of the dormant chickenpox virus in the body. There are two phases to the virus, according to WebMD. The first stage is the prodromal stage before the rash appears. It starts with pain around the affected nerves and the symptoms mentioned above. People who suffer from shingles may also experience lymph node swelling. After several weeks or days, a rash appears. This is the second stage of the shingles virus known as the active stage.
The rash can affect any area of the body; it tends to present only on one side of the body and generally presents on the torso, notes WebMD. Once the rash appears, blisters form and fill with fluid. The rash can last anywhere from two to four weeks. Contact a doctor if the rash, and the pain from the rash, occurs near the eyes or if the afflicted person is over 70 or has a compromised immune system.