• Painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox

Signs and Symptoms

  • Usually starts as a painful rash on one side of the face or body
  • The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7-10 days and clear up within 2-4 weeks
  • 1-5 days before the rash appears, they may be pain, itching, or tingling in the area
  • Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach


  • If you have had chickenpox, you can get shingles
    • After recovering from chickenpox, the virus stays in your body but is inactive. Later in life, this virus can become active again causing shingles
  • You cannot transmit shingles person to person
  • However, the fluid from the shingles rash blisters can be transmitted to another person and cause chickenpox if they have never had chickenpox before
  • Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox, and there is low risk of transmission if the rash is covered


  • Several antiviral medications are available from your doctor to treat shingles.
  • Analgesics (pain medicine) may help relieve the pain caused by shingles.
  • Wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may help relieve some of the itching.
  • If you have shingles, you should cover the rash and wash your hands often to avoid spreading the virus.


  • The most common complication of shingles is a condition called postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).
  • People with PHN have severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up.
  • This could last for weeks, months, or years


  • The only way to prevent shingles is to get the Zostavax vaccine
  • People aged 50 and over should get the shingles vaccine