What is shingles?

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a condition involving an outbreak of a rash or blisters on the skin. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The rash may stay in one area of the body (localized zoster) or it may spread to many areas of the body (disseminated zoster).

Shingles

Shingles is a rash that develops into blisters lasting days or weeks.

Who is at risk for getting shingles?

  • People with a weakened immune system (such as people with cancer or HIV)
  • People over the age of 50
  • People who have been ill
  • People who have experienced trauma
  • People who are under stress

Why do people develop shingles?

Because the virus remains inactive in certain nerve cells of the body, people who have had chickenpox in the past are at risk for developing shingles later on in life.

What are the symptoms of shingles?

Symptoms of shingles often include pains that are itching, stabbing, or shooting. There is a tingling feeling in or under the skin, and the skin is red in the affected area. Other symptoms are fever, chills, headache, and stomach upset.

After a few days, a rash appears as a band or a patch of raised dots, usually on one side of the body. The rash can appear around the waistline or on one side of the face or the trunk (abdomen/back). The rash eventually develops into red, fluid-filled, round, painful blisters. Usually, these blisters begin to dry out within a few days or weeks.

A person with shingles is contagious until the rash is dried and crusted over. The virus can only infect another person who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox.