What Is Shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful skin rash caused by Varicella Zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you've had chickenpox, the virus remains in your body in a dormant or inactive stage. If the virus becomes active again you may get shingles. Age, increased stress, and problems with the immune system may increase your chances of getting shingles.
The shingles rash usually occurs on one side of the body, in a line along a nerve pathway. The rash begins as a tingling in the area then forms a cluster of small red spots that often blister. The rash can be painful. Shingles rashes can last 2-4 weeks, but in some people the nerve pain can last for months. For most people, the pain associated with the rash lessens as it heals. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. In some people, severe complications include pneumonia, blindness, hearing problems, brain inflammation, and even death.
You cannot catch shingles from another person with shingles; however a person who has never had chicken pox or been vaccinated for chicken pox could get chicken pox from someone with shingles.
Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles in their lifetime.