Shingles is a condition involving an outbreak of a rash or blisters on the skin. It is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. People who have had chicken pox in the past are at risk for developing shingles later because the virus remains inactive in certain nerve cells of the body.
A person must already have had a case of chicken pox in order to develop shingles. Unfortunately, not everyone knows for certain if they have had chicken pox.
- About one in three people in the U.S. will develop shingles.
- About half of all shingles cases occur in people 60 years or older.
- There is evidence to suggest that a weakened immune system may cause the virus to break out of its inactive state, multiply and move along nerve fibers to the skin.
People are at risk for shingles if they:
- Have a weakened immune system (ex: people with cancer, HIV, taking steroids)
- Are over the age of 50
- Have been ill
- Are experiencing trauma
- Are under stress
Signs and symptoms
So ““ how do you know if you have shingles? The disease usually starts as a painful rash in a single stripe on the left or right side of the face or body. Here are other symptoms to watch for:
- Pain, itching or tingling will happen in the area one to five days before the rash develops.
- Blisters on the rash that scab over in seven to ten days and clear up within two to four weeks.
- Fever, headache, chills and upset stomach developing with the rash.
You ““ or your loved one ““ cannot pass shingles to a person who has not had chicken pox. It is not likely to happen, but the shingles virus can be spread. The virus is spread through direct contact with rash blisters, not through casual contact, sneezing or coughing.