Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the varicella-zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox.
See also: Ramsay Hunt syndrome
After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves years later.
The reason the virus suddenly become active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs.
Shingles may develop in any age group, but you are more likely to develop the condition if:
If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash on someone and has not had chickenpox as a child or a chickenpox vaccine, they can develop chickenpox, rather than shingles.
Sampathkumar P, Drage LA, Martin DP. Herpes zoster (shingles) and postherpetic neuralgia. Mayo Clin Proc. 2009 Mar;84(3):274-80.
Whitley RJ. Varicella-Zoster virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 137.
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Recommended adult immunization schedule: United States, 2010. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152:36-39.
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