Some people who had
chickenpox as children may develop shingles later in life. Shingles
(herpes zoster) is caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus in the
body. The virus usually affects one of the large nerves that spread
outward from the spine, causing pain and a rash that appears in a band
around one side of the chest, abdomen, or face. The symptoms of shingles
develop in a pattern.
First, there will be a
tingling, burning, throbbing, or stabbing pain in the affected nerve.
Pain is usually worse when shingles affects the face or scalp.
A rash, which develops
into blisters, will appear two to three days after the pain begins. The
blisters will dry up in a few days and will drop off in two to three
weeks. About half of people over 60 who get shingles experience
lingering pain (post-herpetic neuralgia) in the affected nerve for
months or years. No one is sure what causes the chickenpox virus to
become active again. Shingles may be more likely to develop when illness
or medications have weakened a person's immune system, and it can recur.
If you have never had chickenpox, avoid exposure to people with shingles
A vaccine to prevent chickenpox is available. It may prevent shingles if
you have never had chickenpox. However, it will not prevent shingles if
you already have had chickenpox.
Keep shingles blisters clean and dry to prevent infection.
Reduce the pain caused by your clothing rubbing against the blisters by
taping cotton gauze over the blistered area.
Use aspirin or acetaminophen to control pain.
Avoid contact with children, pregnant women, and adults who have never
had chickenpox until the blisters have completely dried.
When to Call a
Health Professional ?
If you suspect shingles, call your doctor immediately. He or she can
prescribe drugs that can limit the pain and rash.
If shingles blisters appear in or near the eye or on the tip of the nose
or if facial pain develops. Your doctor can determine if the eyes are