Shingles in Mouth, Throat and Lips: Symptoms, Treatment and Pictures

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus responsible for chicken pox in children and young adults. Only people who have ever been diagnosed with chicken pox can get shingles. Normally, shingles occurs years or even decades after a chicken pox infection.

At first, the symptoms of shingles aren’t always obvious. They mimic those of the common cold or the flu. This is on top of the fact that many infections cause flu-like symptoms at first.

We are used to shingles occurring on places like the face, trunk and lower back. Apparently, the condition can also show up in the mouth, throat or lips. The problem is that several other conditions are also common in these areas and may present with signs and symptoms almost identical to those of shingles.

Can you get shingles in your mouth, throat or lips?

Where does shingles show up? Can you get shingles in your mouth or throat? Can you get shingles if you never had chicken pox? First, shingles can occur on any part of the body. It is also very possible to have shingles in the mouth, throat and lips. If you never had chicken pox as a child or as an adult, you cannot get shingles. The problem is that many people don’t remember having had the infection although they did have it as kids. Pregnant women should go for tests if they are not certain since chicken pox during pregnancy can be serious.

To understand how this is so, it is important that the process by which shingles occurs be briefly described. Shingles basically starts with a chicken pox infection. A good number of people contract varicella-virus during their childhood years. After first contact with the virus, chicken pox occurs. This virus is transmitted when healthy individuals breathe in contaminated air after a patient coughs or sneezes. Normally, the chicken pox virus remains in incubation for 10-21 days after which it presents with a widespread rash, blisters and flu-like symptoms. The symptoms linger for several weeks before disappearing.

After recovery, the varicella virus doesn’t leave the body entirely. Some of it hides in nerve fibers where it remains in latency for years or decades. Immune cells help keep the virus from causing any signs of infection. When the immune system is compromised such as during cancer treatment, HIV infection or during prolonged emotional stress, the latent virus can become reactivated. If that happens, symptoms of shingles occur.

The main difference between chicken pox and shingles is that shingles only affects localized body regions. Cases of disseminated shingles are not common. Since herpes zoster virus remains in individual nerves that supply different dermatomes, symptoms are only noticeable on the affected dermatomes.

If the nerve fibers that innervate the mouth, throat or lips are affected, shingles symptoms will appear on these areas.

Shingles in mouth symptoms and pictures

The mouth is innervated by several branch terminals of nerves. The trigeminal nerve is the largest supplier, however. This nerve branches into three terminals which innervate different facial regions.

Shingles in mouth symptoms are not always obvious. On other body areas such as trunk, shingles rash is identified from its tendency to form a band-like appearance and only affect one side of body. In short, the rash doesn’t cross the body’s midline. Check out shingles in mouth pictures.

Before the shingles rash appears, most patients experience fatigue, headache and nausea. Fever may be present, but mildly. A day or two after, there will be stabbing, pain, tingling, burning or itching on affected areas. Blisters and rash will appear 2-3 days after. These blisters usually rupture, ooze and crust over for the next 1-2 weeks.

If it is shingles, signs will most likely appear on the tongue and palate. The cheeks too may be involved. Remember that only one side of the mouth will be affected. To get this idea of only one side of the body being involved, see pictures of shingles rash on chest.

Shingles in mouth treatment

Before treatment, diagnosis may be necessary to rule out other infections such as cold sores. Allergic reactions can also be responsible for mouth pain and sores.

Treatment is mainly done with antiviral drugs. These drugs do not cure shingles. What they do is shorten the recovery period and prevent more severe symptoms.

When treatment is started early, the drugs have very little impact on the recovery time. Patients are advised to seek medical attention within 72 hours of first symptoms.

Medications such as antidepressants and pain relievers may be considered for treatment for shingles nerve pain.

Shingles in mouth and throat pictures, symptoms and treatment

Shingles around mouth or in mouth is not common. An even more uncommon case is shingles in the throat. Rarity, however, doesn’t mean impossibility.

Internal shingles pain may accompany signs of the disease on the throat. Internal shingles is more common in people with serious immune issues. If not treated, complications such as pneumonia, confusion, inflammation in the brain and headaches can result.

It is not easy to tell whether pain, rash or blisters on throat are being caused by shingles. The best approach is to go for medical diagnosis. Your doctor may be able to identify shingles from its symptoms. If not, a scraping of the blisters will be taken for examination under a microscope. Shingles in mouth and throat pictures may help with self-diagnosis.

Patients have the best chance of getting the most benefits from antiviral drugs if treatment is started early. Otherwise, the drugs will have very little effect.

Can shingles cause breast cancer? There are no reports linking shingles with breast cancer. However, the two diseases can occur in the same time frame, due to weakened immunity.

Shingles on lips causes and symptoms

Weakened immunity and stress are the most likely shingles on lips causes. Regardless, the herpes zoster virus is responsible for the infection.

Cold sores are more common on the lips than shingles is. As it happens, these two diseases are caused by viruses in the herpes family. They however are different and present with different symptoms, although they can be confused with each other.

What are cold sores?

Cold sores are not caused by cold, as the name may suggest. They are viral infections caused by herpes simplex virus. Like herpes zoster virus, HSV has the ability to remain dormant in the body until triggered. Common triggers include trauma, stress, menstrual periods and weakened immunity. First cold sores outbreaks are most severe. Unlike shingles, cold sores often recur and can affect even children.

Cold sores can appear anywhere on the body but mostly appear around mouth and outside surface of lips. They present as blisters which may break, ooze before scabbing or forming yellow crusts. The sores last for 7-10 days. Once they have scabbed over, patients become noncontagious.

What is shingles?

Shingles is the result of a reactivated chicken pox virus. You can tell cold sores from a shingles rash and blisters by examining the extent of symptoms. Cold sores occur on both sides of the body without discrimination. This is not the case with shingles.


Shingles on lips outbreak is best treated with antiviral drugs. Your doctor will prescribe the drugs after diagnosis. Can you use calamine lotion for shingles? Calamine lotion works by relieving itchiness. The problem with topical products the likes of calamine lotion is that they can cause harm if accidentally swallowed. In fact, there other many products such as shingles treatment cream that may help with shingles but can cause harm when used around or in the mouth.

Vaccines for shingles in mouth and lips

While no one finds a shingles outbreak easy to deal with, it can be doubly traumatic to deal with shingles in the mouth or lips.

Can a shingles vaccine help? Currently, there are two vaccines that have been approved for shingles. These are Zostavax and Shingrix. Recommended shingles vaccine age for both is 60 years and above. Shingrix is thought to be more effective than Zostavax.

Vaccines do not cure diseases and not given during an ongoing outbreak. What they do is prepare the body for a potential attack by the disease being vaccinated against. For example, the shingles vaccine tells immune cells what herpes zoster virus looks like and how it causes infection. With that information, immune cells are able to produce antibodies to fight the virus should it become reactivated. This means that shingles on the lips and mouth or throat can be prevented with vaccines. It is always advisable to talk with your doctor before taking any vaccine, or any medication for that matter.