Shingles and eczema both affect the skin, but they cause different rashes. A shingles rash involves blisters on one side of the body or face. Eczema can develop anywhere on the body.

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchy, dry skin.

Shingles occurs from reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, also known as the chickenpox virus. It can cause a painful, blister-like rash, among other symptoms.

This article compares eczema and shingles symptoms, treatments, causes, and risk factors.

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Shingles and eczema can both cause an itchy rash.

However, the rashes often look quite different.

Additionally, shingles and eczema have different causes, risk factors, and treatments.

Symptoms• itchy, blistery rash that usually appears as a stripe on one side of the body or face
• headache, chills, and upset stomach
• itchy, dry, or sensitive skin
• rough, leathery, or scaly skin
• oozing or crusty skin
Causes• varicella-zoster virus infection• overactive immune system
• genetics
• exposure to triggers
Risk factors• older age
• having a compromised immune system
• family history of allergic conditions
• exposure to pollutants and irritants
Treatment• antivirals, such as acyclovir and valacyclovir
• pain medications
• wet compresses
• medical-grade moisturizing creams
• corticosteroids
• immunosuppressants
• injectable biologics

Shingles and eczema both cause a rash. However, the rashes are very different.

Shingles symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shingles symptoms include a painful and often itchy rash with blisters.

The blisters typically scab over in 7–10 days before completely clearing within 2–4 weeks. A shingles rash usually affects only one side of the face or body, forming a single stripe.

Other symptoms of shingles include:

  • headache
  • chills
  • upset stomach

Eczema symptoms

Typical symptoms of eczema include:

  • itchy skin
  • dry or sensitive skin
  • inflamed or discolored skin
  • rough, leathery, or scaly skin, which may appear as scaly patches
  • oozing or crusting of the skin
  • swelling

Shingles and eczema have very different causes.

Shingles cause

Shingles results from infection with the varicella-zoster virus. This virus is also responsible for chickenpox.

When a person contracts chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus can continue to live in their nerve cells.

This virus can remain inactive throughout a person’s life. However, in about 1 in 3 adults, the virus can reactivate, causing shingles.

Eczema causes

There is no single cause of eczema.

According to the National Eczema Association, the following can contribute to the development of eczema:

Additionally, some people suddenly develop a worsening of eczema symptoms in response to specific triggers. These are known as eczema flare-ups.

Possible causes of eczema flare-up include:

  • exposure to dry air or extreme heat or cold
  • some laundry detergents and fabric softeners
  • juices from fruit, vegetables, and meats
  • formaldehyde
  • dust mites

Risk factors are different for shingles and eczema.

Shingles risk factors

Older age is a large risk factor for shingles. Around half of all shingles cases occur in people ages 60 years and older.

People with weakened immune systems also have a higher risk of developing shingles.

A person cannot develop shingles if they have not had a previous chickenpox infection.

Eczema risk factors

A 2020 review of research outlines common eczema risk factors, including:

  • a family history of eczema
  • a family history of allergic conditions
  • exposure to pollutants or irritants
  • exposure to molds
  • having a birthing parent who smoked cigarettes

Doctors treat shingles and eczema very differently.

Shingles treatments

Doctors use the following antivirals to reduce the duration and severity of shingles:

  • acyclovir
  • valacyclovir
  • famciclovir

Pain relief medications can help manage symptoms such as pain and swelling. Wet compresses, calamine lotion, or warm oatmeal baths may relieve itching.

Eczema treatments

Possible treatments for eczema include:

  • medical-grade moisturizing creams
  • topical eczema medications, such as corticosteroids
  • phototherapy, or light therapy
  • immunosuppressants
  • injectable biologics

Anyone with symptoms of shingles or eczema should seek a doctor’s advice. Treatment can help manage the symptoms of both conditions.

Treatment can also prevent shingles complications, such as nerve damage.

Eczema and shingles both affect the skin.

Shingles often causes an itchy and blistery rash on one side of the body and face. Eczema rashes can appear anywhere on the body.

Doctors treat shingles with antivirals. By contrast, treatment for eczema may involve corticosteroids, phototherapy, and biologics.