Myvision.org Home

Shingles on the Face: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Shingles is a common nerve infection caused by a virus. Also known as herpes zoster, the condition typically triggers small blisters or a painful rash on the affected area of the skin.

shingles on the face

When shingles breaks out near the eyes, they can present a long-term danger to vision, especially if treatment is delayed.

Where Do Shingle Strike?

Shingles can crop up anywhere on the body, although it usually only presents on one side of the body or face.

Herpes zoster is known for leaving a burning and itchy sensation on the skin. This feeling can last for years after the rash has ended.

Symptoms of Shingles on the Face

Shingles on the face can affect the eyes in various ways, including contributing to blindness. When the condition spreads to your eye, it causes redness and swelling. Most people record feeling a burning sensation prior to the first appearance of red bumps.

The rash normally starts as fluid-filled blisters or lesions. The lesions eventually burst, ooze and crust over before the scabs fall off after a few days. Other common symptoms of face shingles include:

  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Headaches
  • Itchiness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pain

What Causes Shingles on the Face?                                  

Herpes zoster occurs when the chickenpox virus gets reactivated. After someone has a breakout of chickenpox, the virus remains in a dormant state in certain nerves — and it can stay that way for many years. Shingles are more common in people with weak immunities and in older people.

Medical researchers acknowledge that they understand fully what triggers the virus, although compromised immunity is present in almost all patients. And there is no hard and fast reason why some people get shingles on the face.

How Is Herpes Zoster Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose shingles through a physical clinical exam. They may take a skin sample to test further if the causative factors remain unknown. However, if you have another type of herpes virus, the test will read positive.

Shingles on the face can lead to various eye compilations, including glaucoma and blindness. That makes it important to seek medical intervention from an ophthalmologist if you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms.

How Do Shingles Affect the Eyes?

Because the eyes are full of complex nerves and blood vessels, a shingles outbreak in the upper face, around the eyes or in the eyes can pose a significant risk.

Pain, itchiness and redness that herpes zoster causes irritate and damage the eyes’ surface or underlying components. Because the condition can result in blindness, glaucoma and other vision complications, it’s critical to seek timely intervention.

Complications of Shingles on the Face

Shingles can cause different complications, depending on where they are. When they spread to or around the eye, they can affect the cornea and nerve cells that respond to light. This can lead to complications that include redness, swelling, puffiness, vision problems and infections.

If the condition develops near or inside the ear, it can lead to imbalance issues, hearing problems, and weakened facial muscles. Around the mouth, shingles can make it difficult to eat and even alter your sense of taste.

How are Shingles Treated?

Shingles is a viral condition that has no outright treatment, but medications lessen symptoms. Regardless of where the condition develops, treatment typically involves taking antiviral drugs like valacyclovir and famciclovir. People with compromised immunities may receive acyclovir instead.

Other treatment options include steroids, anticonvulsants and medicated lotions and creams to relieve itching. Doctors also suggest using non-medicated cold compresses on affected areas. 

Specific treatments vary depending on various factors, including:

  • The extent of the condition
  • Your medical history, health, and age
  • How long the condition has been present
  • Tolerance to various therapies, procedures, and medicines

Is Herpes Zoster Preventable?

There are two available vaccines that can help prevent shingles. Doctors recommend the vaccines for people over the age of 50, even if they have had shingles before.

Discuss the vaccines with your healthcare provider about the best time to receive your shingles vaccine. Sometimes they will include the vaccine as part of an annual physical.

Are Shingles Contagious?

Shingles is not a contagious disease, although it can spread the condition when blisters ooze. The varicella-zoster virus, however, is highly contagious and can be spread to people who never have had chickenpox or the vaccine. But it is more likely that they will come down with a case of chickenpox and not shingles.

Shingles FAQs

What do shingles look like on your face?

Shingles can have the appearance of a small group of lesions or blisters on your face. The condition usually affects one side of the face or body.

How serious are shingles on the face?

Shingles on the face are very serious and should be checked by a professional immediately. Failing to seek timely intervention may have catastrophic effects depending on where on the face it develops. Complications may include blindness, difficulty balancing, weakened facial muscles, and the loss of taste buds.

How long are face shingles contagious?

Shingles on their own are not contagious. However, the blisters can be contagious when they ooze. The underlying causative virus is also contagious, although it will likely result in chickenpox and not herpes zoster.

References

  1. Shingles of The Eye Can Cause Lasting Vision Impairment. (January 27, 2021). Harvard Health Publishing.

  2. Clinical Overview of Herpes Zoster (Shingles). (October 5, 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  3. Shingles Zostavax Vaccination. (October 5, 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. Health Information on Shingles. (July 14, 2020). National Institute of Aging.

  5. Shingles: Who Gets and Causes. (July 23, 2018). American Academy of Dermatology Association.

  6. Oral Sensory Nerve Damage: Causes and Consequences. (June 1, 2017). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  7. Characteristics of Hearing Loss in Patients with Herpes Zoster Oticus. (November 18, 2016). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  8. Herpes Zoster—Eye Complications: Rates and Trends. (June 1, 2014). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Last Updated April 29, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.