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Shingles can be diagnosed by the way the rash is distributed along a dermatome, an area associated with a particular nerve root and the group of infected nerve fibers. Shingles can also be diagnosed in a laboratory with a swab of the fluid from the blisters, but most commonly the telltale rash will be sufficient to confirm the infection. Before the rash and blisters appear, however, shingles can be difficult to diagnose. Sometimes the pain resembles that of appendicitis, inflammation of the large intestine, or a kidney stone or gallstone.

Last reviewed on 9/28/08

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