What Is Shingles?

Just about everyone has heard of the chickenpox - and a large percentage of people had the chickenpox as children -- yet far fewer people are aware of the shingles virus. Shingles is a skin condition that is born from the herpes zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once the body overcomes chickenpox, the herpes zoster virus is largely eradicated, but trace amounts of the virus remain dormant in the body. In a small percentage of people, the virus may reactivate, and the result is the onset of shingles.

There is currently no vaccine to stop shingles from happening. More than 30 percent of American adults are expected to develop shingles in their lifetimes, resulting in more than 2 million new cases of shingles each year in the United States. Researchers don't know exactly how traces of the herpes zoster virus go dormant following chickenpox, and the exact reasoning why the virus becomes reactivated in some people also remains a mystery. Age is believed to be one of the biggest factors in the activation of the shingles virus. As the human body ages, its natural defenses against viruses and infections becomes much lower. Although shingles is diagnosed in younger patients, most people who get shingles are older adults. Infants and pregnant women also face a heightened risk of being diagnosed with the shingles skin disorder.

When shingles first sets in, one of the earliest symptoms is pain or discomfort in just one part of the body. Whereas chickenpox can appear over the entire body, people usually experience shingles in just one region of the body, often either on the back or the torso. Following the onset of pain discomfort is usually the beginnings of a red skin rash, and the rash soon rises up into itchy or burning bumps. This is the appearance of a classic shingles skin rash. Later in the lifecycle of the condition, the bumps on the rash can turn into blisters, and they may ooze fluids when opened. During this time, the shingles virus can easily be spread from one person to the next. That means human contact must be limited in order to slow the spread of the condition.

Treating the shingles virus usually requires a combination of topical treatments and medications. Medications for shingles can be obtained from a doctor or purchased over the counter. Some medications for shingles are designed to reduce the severity of symptoms, while other medications are designed to reduce symptoms and bring a swifter end to the condition. Topical treatments for shingles can help to reduce itching and burning that is so often associated with the shingles skin rash; reducing these symptoms helps to enhance other forms of treatment while also reducing damage to the skin. Although the symptoms of shingles tend to fade on their own after three or four weeks, this is not an easy condition to endure. Getting treatment for shingles conditions can help people weather the storm while minimizing the toll on their bodies.


"I went to the shingles resource and they gave my all the information I needed. To tell you the truth I didn't know much about shingles and I was worried it was something worse."
— Terrell Francis


"The Shingles resource gave me all the information i needed about shingles and what I could do to make it a pain free experience."
— Molly Bollinger


Learn more about shingles



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