Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Shingles facts

  • Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is a painful skin rash.
  • Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
  • Older adults and individuals with a weakened immune system are at greatest risk for developing shingles.
  • Shingles may also be accompanied by symptoms such as headache, fever, nausea, and body aches.
  • Shingles is most often diagnosed by your doctor solely based on the appearance of the characteristic rash.
  • Shingles can be treated with antiviral medication and pain medication.
  • The prognosis for shingles is generally favorable, though some individuals can experience complications. The most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia, which is persistent nerve pain after the rash disappears.
  • There is a vaccine available to help prevent shingles for certain individuals.

What is shingles? What does shingles look like?

Shingles is a disease characterized by a painful, blistering skin rash that affects one side of the body, typically the face or torso. This condition may also be referred to as herpes zoster, or simply zoster. There are approximately 1 million estimated cases per year in the U.S., with almost one out of every three people developing shingles at some point in their lifetime. Though most people who develop shingles will only have a single episode, there are some who develop recurrent cases of shingles. Shingles is more common in older individuals and in those with weakened immune systems.

The characteristic rash of shingles typically appears after an initial period of burning, tingling, itching, or stinging in the affected area. After a few days, the rash then appears in a stripe or band-like pattern along a nerve path called a dermatome, affecting only one side of the body without crossing the midline. The rash erupts as clusters of small red patches that develop into blisters, which may appear similar to chickenpox. The blisters then break open and slowly begin to dry and eventually crust over.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2013

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Shingles - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms of your shingles?
Shingles - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your shingles?
Shingles - Vaccine Question: Please describe your experience with the shingles vaccine.
Shingles - Contagious Question: Please describe your experience with shingle contagious period.
Shingles - Experience Question: Please describe your experience with shingles.

Home Treatments for Shingles

Keeping the inflamed skin clean is essential, so wash the affected area with cool water and mild soap. Taking a bath or shower is fine. The blisters of shingles will crust over and fall off on their own, and it's important to avoid picking at the blisters to prevent the development of a secondary skin infection at the inflamed site.

STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!