Shingles can appear anywhere on the body, but it tends to develop on the face. It’s uncommon for shingles to develop on the hands and fingers, but this can occur.
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Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. It typically appears as a blistering rash on one side of the face or torso, but it can also appear on other parts of the body.
Since this illness is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, you cannot get it without first having had chickenpox. The virus stays dormant in the body after a person recovers from chickenpox and can reactivate later in life.
Some shingles symptoms are more severe and/or rare than others. They include the following:¹
Pain and/or burning
Pain from shingles will typically appear a few days before the rash.
A shingles rash typically looks like a band of blisters that appear somewhere on one side of the body. It may last anywhere from 7–10 days and will clear up fully within a month.²
Shingles typically lasts for 3–5 weeks. However, it can last for months in some people and can potentially have lasting damage if it affects the eye and is left untreated.³
Anyone who has previously had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles. The risk is higher in people over the age of 70.⁴
Immunocompromised people who have had chickenpox are also at risk of developing the condition at any age.
You can get shingles on your fingers, but it’s uncommon. This can be especially painful, since you use your fingers to carry out everyday tasks.
Speak to your doctor if you notice shingles symptoms and have a rash on your fingers.
The first symptom of shingles on your fingers will be a burning or tingling pain. A rash will appear a few days after the pain starts. You might also develop flu-like symptoms before the rash.
It is unclear why the shingles virus is reactivated in fingers, hands, or elsewhere in the body. It is thought to be linked to a weakened immune system and age.⁵
Whenever the chickenpox virus is reactivated, a shingles rash can appear anywhere on the body. Getting vaccinated for shingles is the best way to prevent an outbreak.
Your doctor will advise you on how to best treat shingles and manage your symptoms. They may prescribe an antiviral medication like acyclovir (Sitavig, Zovirax), valacyclovir, or famciclovir (Famvir) to help combat the illness sooner.
You could also try at-home remedies to help relieve pain and/or other shingles symptoms, but be sure to check with your doctor first.
At-home remedies include the following:
Wearing loose clothing to prevent skin irritation
Over-the-counter pain medications
There is no cure for shingles. However, the Shingrix vaccine can reduce your risk of developing the condition.
The Shingrix vaccine is 90% effective in most patients after two doses have been administered. Eating a balanced and healthy diet and exercising regularly may reduce your risk of getting sick, but it won’t necessarily prevent the illness.
You should consider having the shingles vaccine if you have previously had chickenpox and are over the age of 50 or you are immunocompromised. It is the only method proven to be effective against the shingles virus.
Shingles can cause postherpetic neuralgia. This is a condition that occurs if nerve fibers have been damaged during a shingles outbreak.
Postherpetic neuralgia can cause chronic pain that is often excruciating and can last for several years or the rest of your life. Antiviral therapy can help reduce the risk of this condition occurring.
Shingles itself is not contagious. However, you can contract it from someone with an active infection. The risk of this is higher during the blistering phase.
You can contract the virus even if you have been vaccinated against shingles. This is also possible if you have never had a previous chickenpox infection.
If you have an active shingles rash, try to cover it up. It’s a good idea to avoid contact with others if the rash cannot be covered and is oozing.
Untreated shingles can cause several long-term side effects depending on where it occurs. For example, it can cause vision problems if it appears around the eyes. Other complications include postherpetic neuralgia and/or neurological issues.
See your doctor when you first notice shingles symptoms. This will enable you to start treatment.
Seek medical help immediately if your symptoms are severe.
It’s uncommon for shingles to appear on the hands or fingers, but it can happen. Speak to your doctor if you develop shingles symptoms anywhere on your body.
It is not known what reactivates the shingles virus. Experts believe it is related to a weakened immune system and advanced age. Getting the Shingrix vaccine can protect you against shingles. It is recommended for people aged over 50 years and those with weakened immune systems.
Chickenpox versus shingles—What’s the difference? | Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
Signs & symptoms | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Shingles | National Institute on Aging
Shingles: Who gets and causes | American Academy of Dermatology Association