what is shingles


Shingles is a skin infection caused by Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. VZV is a type of Herpes virus. Most cases of shingles occur in individuals over the age of 60. It is the reactivation of chickenpox that may occur as the immune system weakens. It is also seen in patients who have a weakened immune system from diseases such as HIV. Not everyone who has HIV gets shingles and not everyone who has shingles has HIV.

Patients may develop pain along a dermatome (an area of the body that is supplied by a specific nerve) before they develop a rash. After 2-3 days of pain, a bubbled rash or vesicles will appear. Over the next couple of days, the bubbles will heal and scab. Pain can be quite variable and some people experience pain for a long time after the rash goes away.

Shingles should be treated as soon as possible with anti-herpes medicines such as acyclovir to reduce the duration of symptoms plus this seems to help reduce the chance of having persistent pain afterwards. Anyone who gets shingles should see their doctor.