Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash that is a reactivated effect of having the chickenpox virus sometime during a person’s lifetime. The reason it is called a ‘reactivated’ virus is that the chickenpox doesn’t actually leave your system.
After the chickenpox fade away, the virus still stays in the nerve roots, where it becomes dormant. This means that the virus can act up again later in life, and this is when it turns into shingles. Some people can go through their entire lifetime without having shingles, but when it does occur it is usually from your body triggering it from stress, disease, or weakening of the immune system.
According to the CDC, at least one out of three people in the United States alone will develop shingles in their lifetime. The likelihood of getting shingles increases as you age, so people over 60 are recommended to get the shingles vaccine.
Shingles is most common in older adults and people with weak immune systems. Shingles is not a contagious virus; however, people with an open rash can give it to others who have not had the chickenpox or the vaccine.
When shingles occurs, it may take days to weeks for it to resolve. Usually once shingles has occurred, it won’t happen again, but it is possible to get it more than once.
Shingles comes in stages, where you might have a headache or feel sick without a fever. Then, you might feel itching or pain in a certain area of your body, and there you will find a strip of rash later on. The rash will begin to form painful blisters and crust over.
If you suspect you have shingles, call a doctor immediately. They can give you medication to help with the pain and make the symptoms go away sooner. If you have had chickenpox before, get the shingles vaccine and do some research on how it can affect you.
Written by: Alex Dunn