Shingles is a viral infection that tends to occur later in life. It isn’t life threatening but it can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful. It’s caused by the Varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes the chickenpox.
Like chickenpox, shingles causes a rash to appear on the body. It usually only affects one side of the body, most often presenting as a strip of blisters that wraps around the torso. The first noticeable symptom is typically pain which is then followed by the rash a few days later.
Other symptoms of shingles include:
- Burning or tingling
- Skin sensitivity
Can I Get Shingles if I’ve Never Had Chickenpox?
The good news is, you can only get shingles if you’ve had chickenpox. The bad news is that if you’re an adult who hasn’t had chickenpox, you’re at a higher risk of suffering severe complications if you do get it. Chickenpox is much more dangerous in adults than it is in children which is why it’s recommended that adults get the chickenpox vaccine if they’ve never had chickenpox.
If you had chickenpox when you were younger, the Varicella-zoster virus can remain dormant for years or even decades in your body before becoming active again as shingles. It’s not fully understood why shingles can reactivate in some people and not in others, but some believe that it might be due to a lowered immunity after experiencing a separate infection.
There’s no cure for shingles, but antiviral medications can speed up the healing process and lower your chance of complications. The most common complication of shingles is a form of long term nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN). The pain caused by PHN occurs where the shingles rash was and can last for months or years after the rash goes away. The severity of the pain can differ, with some people suffering enough that they can’t go about their daily lives. Up to 18% of people who get shingles will develop PHN.