Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful blistering rash that can occur in anyone who has had chickenpox. The majority of cases occur in people 60 and older. After chickenpox clears, the virus that causes chickenpox (Herpes Zoster Virus) stays dormant in the body, residing in the nerves. If the virus wakes up, it usually does so in one nerve, thus causing pain and blisters in the distribution of that nerve.
Did you know…
that a vaccine, which can prevent shingles, is available to people ages 50 and older? Dermatologists recommend this vaccine for everyone 50 and older.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of shingles?
Shingles usually begins with a warning sign of localized itching, burning, or pain in a small area on one side of the body. Within a few days, the area will turn red and develop blisters. The pain can worsen and can be accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Without treatment, shingles can last up to 3-4 weeks. The burning or pain from shingles can last even longer. Early diagnosis by a dermatologist and early initiation of treatment can decrease the length of the rash and pain.
Am I at risk for shingles?
Although shingles can occur in anyone who has had chickenpox, more than half of the cases affect patients 60 years or older. Reactivation of the chickenpox virus is generally attributed to a temporary weakness in the immune system such as in patients who are older, under high levels of stress, or recently ill. Patient who have chronically compromised immune systems such as cancer patients, organ-transplant patients, or patients with HIV/AIDS are also at higher risk.
What can I do if I have shingles?
Shingles is contagious. If a person who has never had chickenpox comes into contact with the blisters of shingles, that person can develop chickenpox. It is important to protect newborns and those with a weak immune system. If you suspect you have shingles, you should visit a dermatologist as soon as possible. Without treatment, the pain, numbness, itching, and tingling that occurs can last for months or years. The earlier the treatment is initiated the better. Treatment involves anti-viral medications and topical or oral medications for nerve pain.