Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that causes an outbreak of a painful rash or blisters on the skin. Shingles can appear anywhere on the body but commonly occur as a single stripe on one side of the body. The infection is caused by the same virus - the varicella zoster virus- that causes chickenpox. Once you’ve had chickenpox as a child, the virus stays dormant in your nervous system even after you’ve recovered. Years later, the virus can reactivate and travel through nerve pathways, causing shingles.
Shingles can occur anywhere on the body, but often appears as a single stripe on one side of the body.
Common symptoms of shingles include:
- Burning pain, itching, or tingling in the affected area of the skin
- A red rash, usually occurring in a single stripe
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open and scab over
Shingles can only be spread through direct contact with the fluid leaked from the blisters. If you have not had chickenpox, you cannot get shingles. Instead, if you are exposed to the fluid from the blisters of someone who has an active case of shingles, you may likely contract chickenpox. Preventing the spread of the varicella zoster virus can be accomplished by covering oozing blisters and the affected area with bandages.
Shingles Risk Factors
Shingles may last for several weeks after symptoms begin to appear. Adults over the age of 50, people with weakened immune systems, and certain cancer treatments can increase your risk of contracting shingles. In some cases, shingles may not produce a rash. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, talk to your doctor. Early treatment can provide early relief and prevent the spread of the varicella zoster virus.