Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is a skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox (varicella-zoster virus). It typically affects only one side of the body and causes an itchy, blistery rash with pain, numbness, burning, and other common viral symptoms. Most often, shingles appears as a single stripe of skin blisters that wraps around the left side or right side of your torso. It is best to seek treatment early to relieve pain and reduce your risk of complications.

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Shingles can cause the following symptoms:

  • Red skin rash with fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust
  • Rash appears most often on back or chest
  • Itching or tingling in skin
  • Sensitivity, numbness, or burning in skin
  • Pain, sometimes intense
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General aches
  • Sensitivity to light

Complications from shingles can include skin infections, neurological problems, postherpetic neuralgia, and vision loss.

Risk Factors

Anyone who has had chicken pox in their lifetime can develop shingles. Additional risk factors include:

  • Age (especially older than 50)
  • Weakened immune system, especially cancer and HIV/AIDS
  • Receiving radiation or chemotherapy


The chicken pox vaccine and shingles vaccine can help to prevent the occurrence of shingles or reduce its severity and your risk of complications. Early treatment for shingles is strongly recommended to minimize symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

For individuals diagnosed with shingles, prescription antiviral drugs can speed the healing process. Other treatments include topical patches, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and numbing agents (such as creams or gels) to minimize pain. Symptoms may also be alleviated with home remedies such as taking a cool bath, placing wet compresses on the blisters, and minimizing stress.