Woman holding her back shoulder

Internal Shingles: What You Need To Know

Shingles is a painful and often debilitating disease that is caused by a virus that affects the roots of the nerves. Shingles is not a contagious disease, but it is actually spread via the chicken pox virus that lies dormant inside many adults’ bodies. Shingles is known mostly for the external symptoms, especially the rash, but there are many internal shingles symptoms that should not be ignored and should immediately trigger a phone call to your physician.

Earliest Symptoms of Internal Shingles

The earliest symptoms are the internal ones. They include flu-like symptoms, but no fever, as well as sensitivity to light and headaches. These will pass and then the rash will appear. Before the rash appears, there will also be numbness, pain, tingling, burning, or tickling sensations in the locations where the rash will later appear. Those areas are usually along the back or chest, but the symptoms and rash can appear anywhere, including the legs, arms, neck, face, head, or torso.

Other internal shingles symptoms include symptoms that are flu-like, including chills, diarrhea, and stomach aches. The only difference is that the symptoms will not have a fever. The lymph nodes may go into high gear as they swell to fight the virus. As the lymph nodes swell, they might also become quite tender to the touch.


Encephalitis, or an inflammation of the brain, is one of the symptoms that occur with internal shingles. This symptom can be devastating and life-threatening. The symptom occurs because the shingles is attacking the nerves of the brain and causing it to swell.

Oral Pain

A person with shingles may notice the presence of blisters inside of their mouth. These blisters or cuts can prove troubling when it comes to swallowing or eating food.

Lymph Node Swelling

Another noticeable symptom of internal shingles is the swelling of a person’s lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are found on the side of the neck, in the groin area and underneath the arms. This swelling of the lymph nodes is caused by the body’s immune system responding and trying to fight the virus.

Treatment of internal shingles

The most common forms of treatment for internal shingles include oral drugs such as steroids, antidepressants for the symptoms, pain relievers and other medications. These drugs should not be taken before consulting a doctor. They are most effective if taken within the first few days of the symptoms.

If your internal shingles symptoms do develop into a rash, you have several options for pain relief. If you have blisters, make sure to keep them wet, because as the liquid evaporates from your skin, it dries the blisters, as well as your skin. Calamine lotion can help dry out blisters, too.

You can also soak a washcloth in cold milk and hold it to your blistery rash(es), as milk has a soothing effect on rashes.

To dry blisters, make a paste of water mixed with baking powder to spread over the affected area.

After your blisters have healed, you may still have internal pain, as the nerve endings are still being affected. Consider using a cream that contains capsaicin, an ingredient found in red chili peppers. This cream causes your nerve endings to fire until no pain-causing chemical is left.

If you see a doctor within 48 hours of the onset of your shingles, you should be able to get the virus under control and prevent scarring. In addition, quickly taking antiviral medications could help you prevent the lingering nerve pain associated with shingles.

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