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Conditions InDepth: Shingles

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection. It is the same varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox. Inactive copies of the virus live in your nerves. If these viruses become reactivated, then you get shingles.

If you haven’t had chickenpox and haven’t gotten the vaccine, then being around someone with shingles could lead to chickenpox.

It starts with a burning or tingling feeling. A rash with fluid-filled bumps will appear a few days later. These will crust over and dry out. It takes about 5 weeks to get better. In some people, there can be lasting pain in the site of the rash.

Herpes Zoster Blisters

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About 20% of people who have had chickenpox will get shingles. Most people will only get it once. If you have a weakened immune system, then you may get it more than once.


Herpes zoster. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 19, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

NINDS shingles information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Updated June 27, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles. The American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: Accessed July 16, 2018.

Shingles (herpes zoster). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated June 15, 2018. Accessed July 16, 2018.

Stankus SJ, Dlugopolski M, Packer D. Management of herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Am Fam Physician. 2000;61(8):2437-2444.

Last reviewed May 2018 by James P. Cornell, MD  Last Updated: 7/16/2018