Shingles (Herpes zoster)

Shingles also known as herpes zoster (varicella-zoster virus, or VZV) is a viral infection that causes a painful rash.

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is one of a variety of skin infections caused by viruses in the herpes family.

Although the infection can stay in the body forever, the number of outbreaks usually decreases over a period of years. You can pass genital herpes to someone else even when you experience no

  • Shingles is derived from the Latin and French words for belt or girdle, reflecting distribution of the rash in a broad band. This band is usually only on one side of the body and represents a dermatome—the area that a single sensory nerve supplies in the skin.
  • Anyone who has had the chickenpox infection or vaccine can get the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles. Older people and those with cancer, HIV, or organ transplants have a decreased ability to fight off infection and a greater chance of getting shingles.
  • The majority of people with shingles, however, are healthy. No special tests need to be done to see if your immune system is strong.

Approximately 500,000 people has been infected by shingles each year in the United States. Shingles is most common in people over 50 years of age; however, anyone who has had chickenpox, even children, can get shingles.

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