The most common complication of shingles is a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up. The pain from PHN may be severe and debilitating, but it usually resolves in a few weeks or months. Some people can have pain from PHN for many years and it can interfere with daily life.

A person’s risk of PHN also increases with age. Older adults are more likely to have PHN and to have longer lasting and more severe pain. About 10 to 13% of people who get shingles will experience PHN. PHN occurs rarely among people less than 40 years of age.

Shingles may lead to serious complications involving the eye such as vision loss. Very rarely, shingles can also lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis), or death.

Page last reviewed: January 19, 2018