This is a painful rash characterized by blisters on one side of the body. It is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Once you have had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive on some of the nerves in your body. The virus can become active again many years later. This can result in a painful rash and other symptoms associated with shingles. It is not known exactly why the virus becomes active again. Some of the possible reasons include:
Shingles typically causes pain, burning and tingling a few days before a rash develops. The rash consists of itchy, fluid-filled blisters that eventually burst and crust over.
The rash is usually located on one side of body, usually from the spine to the chest or abdomen. Sometimes, the rash can involve the face (eyes and mouth), ears and genital area. It normally takes a few weeks for all of the blisters to burst and crust over. Other possible symptoms include:
Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of shingles. Shingles is usually diagnosed by medical history and physical examination. Tests are rarely needed.
There are antiviral medications that can help control the virus. Use of these medications can shorten the time you are ill and decrease the pain and complications associated with shingles. These medications are more effective if you take them before the rash develops, usually within three days of the initial symptoms. Some other recommended medications may include steroids, pain medications, antihistamines and creams containing capsaicin (a pepper extract). To help control the symptoms associated with shingles, you can also:
Until the blisters have all dried and crusted over, you can spread the virus to anyone who has not had the chickenpox or received the chickenpox vaccine. These individuals will not have immunity to the virus.
Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of shingles. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you have had them.
Here are some questions to ask your health care provider.
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