If you had chickenpox as a kid (or even as an adult), then you are at risk for getting the painful, blistering rash known as shingles later in life. Almost one in three people will develop shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Find out the telltale symptoms, how to treat shingles and how shingles spreads with this fact sheet.
What is shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful viral skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After someone experiences chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the body. Doctors aren’t exactly sure why, but the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.
What are symptoms of shingles?
Usually the first symptom of shingles is pain, itching or tingling in a small area on one side of the face or body, followed by a red, painful rash a few days later. After a week or so, the rash forms a group or strip of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually crust over. The shingles rash typically appears as a band across the right or left side of your torso. It can also show up on one side of the face, on the forehead or around the mouth, an eye or an ear. Some people also experience the following:
- Stomach ache
If you have symptoms that you think might be shingles, see your doctor right away. Several antiviral medications can help shorten the course of the infection, but aren’t as effective if you begin them more than three days after symptoms appear.