Shingles is a common and highly painful skin condition that affects 1 in 3 people in the United States. It’s caused by the varicella zoster (or herpes zoster) virus, which lives within the body and can flare up at any time. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox, and it lies dormant within anyone who has ever had chickenpox.
Shingles affects just one side of the body, and appears in a band or strip across the abdomen, chest or face. The shingles rash may start off mild and then begin to blister and intensify, causing deep, piercing or shooting pain. The fluid-filled blisters eventually burst and begin to crust over.
A typical shingles outbreak may last between 3-4 weeks. Even after symptoms fade, stabbing pain, numbness and sensitivity may affect the skin. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia, and can be a lingering effect that lasts for months or years.
It’s important to note that the skin condition shingles cannot be passed from person to person, but the virus that causes the shingles outbreak can be.
If someone has had chickenpox in their lifetime, the virus already lives within them, and can potentially flare up at any time. However, if someone who has never had chickenpox comes in contact with someone who is suffering from a blistering shingles rash, they can contract the virus from the fluid in the blisters.
A shingles vaccine is available for people ages 50 and above, however, it does not guarantee that you will not experience a shingles outbreak, or spread the virus. The chickenpox vaccine is also available for children or adults who have never had chickenpox.
While over-the-counter products exist to help relieve intense pain, rash, and irritation, they will not cure you of the shingles virus. Once you have contracted it, it lives within the body and can flare up at any time.
Visit your medical professional for more information on the shingles virus and shingles outbreaks. Only a doctor can properly diagnose you with shingles, and offer professional advice. The information we are providing is not meant to substitute a visit to your healthcare provider, or to be taken as medical advice.
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