Shingles Facts

What is Shingles?

Shingles or herpes zoster is a non-life threatening viral infection of the nerve roots. Shingles is not contagious from one person to another. It is caused by the chickenpox virus returns to the body. When people recover from the chickenpox, the virus that causes it becomes dormant in the nerve cells of the body. For some people the virus stays dormant forever, while others it can reappear. It reappears mostly when the body or immune system are weakened. Another disease attacking the immune system, stress or aging are all possible causes of the return of the chickenpox virus that causes shingles. It is not completely known why this happens to some people and not others. Although, when the chickenpox virus is reactivated, it only causes shingles, not the chickenpox again.

What Do Shingles Look Like?

Shingles can be extremely painful. It mainly attacks one side of the body with a band or strip of a rash or blisters. This can wrap from the back around to the front of the chest. People may experience rashes on their neck, face or scalp in some cases.

What are the Symptoms of Shingles?

The signs and symptoms of shingles come in several phases.

  • The first marked symptoms are frequent headaches and sensitivity to light.
  • The next is an itching, tingling, pain, and sensitive feeling in a specific part of the body, not the whole body.
  • The appearance of a rash or blisters in the area where the itching and other symptoms occurred before is the next set of symptoms. This is what marks the positive presence of shingles, which is because it is the most well known factor of shingles.

The rash may be similar to that of the chickenpox but it is more painful than chickenpox and less itchy.

  • The blisters begin to fill with fluid, and then they break open and crust over. Similar to that of chickenpox. The blisters can take between two to four weeks to heal and leave scars on some people.
  • The most serious set of symptoms include dizziness, weakness, a spreading rash or a rash on the face, marked changes in vision and the inability to think clearly. These symptoms are serious because they require immediate medical attention.

Who Can Get Shingles?

The risk for developing shingles is not significantly high. There are several factors that can make a person more likely to develop shingles.

  • People who have had chickenpox or a mild case of it because the virus is dormant in the body and could flare back up at any time.
  • People with weak immune systems, due to disease.
  • People who are receiving medical treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
  • Older people, most cases of older people that develop it after the age of 60.
  • People with a family history of bone or lymphatic cancers.
  • People who have never had the chickenpox. People with shingles can transmit the virus to those people, causing them to get chickenpox.

Know the Signs

It is important that if any of these signs or symptoms put you at risk that you talk with your doctor. It can be somewhat difficult to determine if the condition is forming. If the signs are apparent, get treatment so the symptoms are not worsened and so that it is not spread to others.


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