The most prominent symptom of shingles is a painful, red rash called erythema. The rash leaves blisters, which eventually clear. However, the blisters heal and leave scars (medically termed cicatrices). Some earlier symptoms of shingles are stomach pain, fever and headache.
Diagnosis is usually done during a breakout, since the patient sees a doctor from the rash. The doctor takes a skin tissue swab as a sample and evaluates results from a lab.
Shingles patients can have persistent pain. One major complication from shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). This is a condition where pain persists in the area where the rash broke out and the blisters healed.
There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments for the symptoms. The best treatments are topical creams to reduce the blister formations. More severe pain is treated with removal of the affected nerve.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccination in 2006. Zostavax is recommended for elderly patients over the age of 60 to reduce the painful outbreaks.