Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles. After the chickenpox clears, the virus stays in the body. If the virus reactivates (wakes up), the result is shingles — a painful, blistering rash.

Shingles is most common in older adults. A vaccine, which can prevent shingles, is available to people ages 50 and older. Dermatologists recommend this vaccine for everyone 50 and older.

If you get shingles, an anti-viral medicine can make symptoms milder and shorter. The medicine may even prevent long-lasting nerve pain. Anti-viral medicine is most effective when started within 3 days of seeing the rash.

Shingles tends to cause more pain and less itching than chickenpox. Common signs (what you see) and symptoms (what you feel) are:

  • The warning: An area of skin may burn, itch, tingle, or feel very sensitive. This usually occurs in a small area on 1 side of the body. These symptoms can come and go or be constant. Most people experience this for 1 to 3 days. It can last longer.
  • Rash: A rash then appears in the same area.
  • Blisters: The rash soon turns into groups of clear blisters. The blisters turn yellow or bloody before they crust over (scab) and heal. The blisters tend to last 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Pain: It is uncommon to have blisters without pain. Often the pain is bad enough for a doctor to prescribe painkillers. Once the blisters heal, the pain tends to lessen. The pain can last for months after the blisters clear.
  • Flu-like symptoms: The person may get a fever or headache with the rash.

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