Shingles on scalp-Causes, 13 Symptoms, 12 Treatments

Shingles on scalp can be really distressing as it causes severe pain and itching on the scalp and it can even cause permanent patches of hair loss on the scalp if left untreated.

So it is quite essential for us to know what is shingles on scalp, what are its symptoms, what causes it so that we can take essential steps to get rid of this condition.

What are shingles on scalp and its causes:

shingles on scalp
Shingles on scalp
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Have you ever heard of the word shingles? It is the name of the skin disorder which is caused by a virus called Varicella Zoster. Shingles are also known by the name of Herpes zoster.

The varicella-zoster virus also causes a very commonly known disease chickenpox. Do you know that there is relation between chickenpox and shingles? When a person gets chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus goes to the dorsal root ganglion beside the spinal cord.

Within the dorsal root ganglion, the varicella zoster virus stays dormant. When the immune system of the person is weakened due to stress or diseases or infections or cancer or even radiotherapy, the varicella-zoster virus becomes reactivated.

People over the age of 50 years are more susceptible to develop shingles rash than others. Even people receiving immunosuppressant medications after having any sort of organ transplant are also more likely to develop shingles on scalp.

Then the varicella-zoster virus travels along the sensory nerves from the dorsal nerve root ganglion. It causes inflammation of the nerves and also blisters over the skin supplied by these nerves.

Then this virus causes shingles in the affected person. Shingles have dermatomal distribution. It can be present over area supplied by a specific nerve. Shingles occur more commonly over the chest, back, legs and face. It rarely occurs on the scalp. If shingles occur on scalp, it is called shingles on scalp.

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Shingles on scalp symptoms:

There are many symptoms which help us in identifying shingles on scalp. They are:


Before the development of shingles rashes on the scalp, the affected person has mild fever due to the effect of the virus, as the body tries to fight the virus by elevating the body temperature.


The affected person feels very weak, uneasy and tired. Symptoms of this prodromal phase of the shingles on scalp appear similar to flu.

Scalp sensitivity:

Even before the development of rash of shingles on scalp, scalp starts feeling very sensitive. It feels painful even to touch. It feels painful even if you try to comb your hair.

A headache:

Before the development of rashes of shingles on scalp, you might also develop a headache. These headaches can be very mild or can even bother you by being severe.

Ear pain:

Shingles on scalp can also severe ear pain or an earache in some people.

Swelling of lymph nodes:

In a person having shingles on scalp, there can even be swelling of lymph nodes near the scalp.


All the above symptoms that we discussed will last for about 5 days. That period is called as prodromal phase. Later you will notice development of blisters or vesicles on the scalp.

These blisters develop on those areas of the scalp which is innervated by the nerve affected by the varicella-zoster virus.

These blisters are filled with fluid. Blisters are seen on only one side of the scalp. These blisters are very painful to touch. They are also very itchy or cause pruritus.

Then after few days, about 4 to 5 days after the appearance of the blisters of shingles on scalp, the blisters or vesicles will dry up slowly and form scabs that will fall eventually.

Scar formation:

If we keep scratching the vesicles or blisters as they itch a lot, it can even lead to scar formation over the scalp.

Hair loss:

The formation of scar tissue over the scalp can also lead to destruction of the hair follicles in the areas of the scalp affected by shingles on scalp. This can lead to loss of hair. This might even manifest as bald patches on the scalp without hair. This patches of baldness might become permanent due to damage to the hair follicles.

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Postherpetic neuralgia:

Even after the shingles on scalp rash reduces, you will experience sharp burning pain over the scalp for about a month. This is called postherpetic neuralgia and it is caused due to the involvement of the nerves. In some people, this burning sensation might even persist for years.

Infection of the brain:

The viral infection causing shingles on scalp can also spread to the brain and cause brain inflammation called encephalitis. But this occurs in very rare cases.

Encephalitis causes many symptoms like high fever, headache, neck rigidity, photophobia or intolerance to light, neck stiffness, confusion or altered mental status, seizures or convulsions.

Vision loss:

If shingles on scalp occur in a person and the virus spreads to the eyes, it can even cause vision loss.

Nervous problems:

As shingles can affect the nerves and cause inflammation, shingles on scalp can lead to many nervous complications apart from Encephalitis like hearing impairment, problems of balance, paralysis or palsy, etc as complications.

Are shingles on scalp contagious:

If any person comes into contact with shingles rash and he never had chickenpox properly, then the virus can get transmitted to him as it is contagious and he might develop chickenpox.

Shingles on scalp treatment and home remedies:

There are many treatment options available for the treatment of shingles on scalp. Some of them include:

Antiviral drugs:

As shingles on scalp are caused by virus called varicella zoster, it is necessary to take antiviral drugs to kill the virus. Antiviral drugs like acyclovir are given to kill the virus.  It helps in getting relief from shingles on scalp faster.

It reduces the duration of presence of the skin or scalp rash. It also helps in preventing the development of postherpetic neuralgia.


Viral illness caused by varicella infection can also cause malaise and fatigue. So it is necessary to take proper rest to get rid of shingles on scalp faster.

Calamine lotion:

Application of melamine lotion over shingles on scalp can provide relief from itching and soothes the skin having the rash of shingles.

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Aloe Vera Gel:

Application of Aloe Vera gel over the shingles in scalp can also have soothing effect on the scalp and reduce the burning and itching sensation. If possible use freshly extracted aloe Vera gel from Aloe Vera plant.

Otherwise, purchase aloe Vera gel from a reputed brand. Ensure aloe Vera gel is not having any chemicals and is completely natural. Also, check the expiry date before applying the aloe Vera gel over the scalp as using expired gel can further aggravate your problem.

Cold compress:

Take few ice cubes. Place them in Ziploc bag and then use this cold compress to massage gently over the shingles on scalp rash. This also soothes the scalp and provides relief from itching.


Your physician might prescribe antihistamine drugs like loratadine or cetirizine, etc to provide relief from itching caused by shingles on scalp.

Avoid shampoos:

Avoid shampooing the hair and scrubbing the hair when having shingles on scalp until it is cured properly. You can just wash your hair gently without applying any shampoo using water of normal temperature. Don’t use hot water to wash your hair as it can increase the pain caused by shingles on scalp.

Use soft combs:

Avoid using combs with hard bristles as it can aggravate pain over the scalp. Use combs have soft bristles and comb very gently.

Eat a healthy diet:

Shingles on scalp attack only people with a weakened immune system. So try to strengthen your immune system by eating a healthy diet. Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Eat nuts, green leafy vegetables. Drink lots of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses of water per day.

Avoid taking stress:

Stress is the main reason for developing many disorders. Stress weakens a person’s immune system and makes him susceptible to various infections. So, try to relax by meditating, doing breathing exercises, etc. Stress relief helps you to recover from shingles on scalp faster.

Analgesic medications:

You can even take analgesic medications which are available over the counter like Diclofenac, aceclofenac, ibuprofen, etc to get relief from pain caused by shingles on scalp.

Antidepressant drugs:

If you are having severe pain caused by shingles on scalp you might have to take antidepressant drugs to reduce the pain by taking advice from a physician.

You have seen all the possible causes, symptoms and treatment of shingles on scalp. Hope you find this article informative.

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