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Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is a viral infection. It is caused by the same virus that causes
chickenpox. After a person has recovered from chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in the body. The virus can be activated later in life, returning as shingles. This typically occurs in people who are age 50 years and older.
The virus returns for unknown reasons. Some causes may include stress or a weakened immune system. Typically, it returns one time with only one episode of symptoms. However, more than one episode can occur. It is a common illness in the US.
The virus that causes shingles can be spread to people who have not had chickenpox. These people would get chickenpox, not shingles.
The most common symptoms of shingles include:
Painful skin that turns into a rash
A rash of red, painful blisters
Rash often occurs only on one side of the body
Blisters that break open, then scab over
Fever, headache, chills
Shingles and its symptoms typically get better over time. Antiviral medications may be given to help the symptoms go away faster.
Possible complications include long-term nerve pain. Other complications are lesson common, but serious, such as blindness, deafness, brain inflammation, and death.
Have a weakened immune systems due to medications or other health conditions.
Have an allergy to gelatin or
Are moderately or severely ill. Wait until you have recovered.
Are or may be pregnant.
What Other Ways Can Shingles Be Prevented Besides Vaccination? TOP
You cannot get shingles if you have never had chickenpox. However, you may get a severe case of chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, you are at risk for shingles. Getting the vaccine can reduce your risk.
Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated January 10, 2011. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Shingles vaccine: What you need to know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated October 6, 2009. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Tseng HF, Liu A, et al. Safety of zoster vaccine in adults from a large managed care cohort: a vaccine safety datalink study.
J Intern Med.
2011 Oct 25.
Tseng HF, Smith N, et al. Evaluation of the incidence of herpes
zoster after concomitant administration of zoster vaccine and polysaccharide
Zoster. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated July 22, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Zoster vaccine live. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated February 4, 2013. Accessed November 19, 2013.
Last reviewed November 2013 by David Horn, MD Last Updated: 11/19/2013
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This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.