Understanding Shingles

Shingles is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus is called the Varicella-zoster virus. After a person gets chickenpox, the virus stays in their body. It may cause an infection later in life called shingles.

Shingles cause a painful rash on one side of the face or body that can last for days, weeks, or even months. People who had chickenpox may or may not have had shingles. The risk for shingles increases as people get older.

Symptoms of Shingles

The most common symptom of shingles is a rash with painful, itchy blisters. The blisters may appear a few days before or after other symptoms start. The rash usually affects one side of the body. Other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach
  • Pain, burning, or tingling in the affected area

Causes of Shingles

Shingles is caused by the Varicella- Zoster virus. This virus is also the cause of chickenpox. After a person gets chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in certain nerve cells of the body. It is still in the body even if a person has been vaccinated for chickenpox and never had the disease.

When the virus becomes active again, it causes shingles. Stress, illness, or a weakened immune system can contribute to the virus becoming active again.

Treating Shingles

The goal of shingles treatment is to reduce the pain and discomfort and minimize complications. Treatment may include antiviral medicines, pain medications, and over-the-counter creams and ointments.

It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you have shingles. Early treatment may reduce the severity and duration of shingles, as well as the risk of complications.