What Is Shingles?

From the Doctor’s Blog Jan 19, 2016


What is Shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is an infection that is caused by the chickenpox virus(varicella). After childhood infections with chicken pox, the virus can live in your nerve root for many years.

Shingles occurs when the virus is reactivated and causes painful fluid-filled blisters localized to a singles nerve root. Therefore shingles follows the distribution of the nerve root and never crosses the midline.


What is Shingles?
The pain of shingles is described as “electrical” or scalding and can last much longer than the rash, a conditioned call postherpetic neuralgia.

It is more common:

  • In people older than 50 years.
  • In people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, AIDS, or cancer.
  • In people taking medicines that weaken the immune system, such as transplant medicines.
  • In people under great stress.

Signs and Symptoms

Shingles shows up in stages. The initial symptoms may be pain, itching, and tingling in an area of the skin. This pain is usually described as burning, stabbing, or throbbing. In a few days or weeks, a painful red rash will appear in the area where the pain, itching, and tingling were felt. The rash is usually on one side of the body in a band or belt-like pattern. Then, the rash usually turns into fluid-filled blisters. They will scab over and dry up in approximately 2-3 weeks.

Flu-like symptoms may also occur with the initial symptoms, the rash, or the blisters.

Is Shingles Contagious?

Yes. A person can spread the virus through the fluid of blisters to another person that has never had chicken pox causing them to get chicken pox, but not the shingles Shingles is less contagious than chicken pox, and keeping the rash covered greatly reduces transmission.

Why Should I Get A Shingles Vaccine?

The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain from post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that people aged 60 years and older get one dose of shingles vaccine. The shingles vaccine, Zostavax, protects you from getting shingles by 50% and lowers the chance of getting Post herpetic neuralgia. To learn more details and see if the vaccine would be helpful for you please speak with your medical provider about Zostavax.

More Shingles Information

If you would like to learn more shingles information, we recommend you visit:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
About Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
cdc.gov/shingles


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This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical or safety advice. Please consult your health care professional for evaluation of your individual case.