6 Facts About Shingles
Allison Tsai | June 27, 2013
Shingles is a painful skin rash that typically appears later in life. Here are some facts on what it is and how to prevent it.
Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus
After you have the chickenpox, the virus, varicella zoster virus (VZV), stays in your body. Though it usually lays dormant, it can reappear later in life causing shingles.
Shingles starts as a rash on one side of the face or body
The rash looks like blisters that scab over after three to five days, and usually clears within two to four weeks. Before the rash develops, other symptoms are present, including pain, itching and tingling at the spot where the rash develops. Fever, headache, chills and upset stomach can also occur.
People in their 50s or older are most likely to get shingles
There are about 1 million cases of shingles in the U.S. every year, and the risk increases as people age. In addition, people with a compromised immune system are at a higher risk. But, everyone who has recovered from the chickenpox can get shingles, even children.
People usually only have one occurrence of shingles
It is rare, but possible, for a person to develop shingles twice or even three times in their lifetime.
Shingles is contagious
Shingles is contagious through direct contact with the rash, but only during the blister phase. Once the rash has crusted over, it is no longer contagious. Shingles is not contagious before the rash develops, and is not spread through sneezing, coughing or casual contact.
People over 60 should get the vaccine
The VZV or Zotavax vaccine can help prevent shingles in people 60 and older. If you already have shingles, taking antiviral drugs can help lessen the severity of the rash and shorten the duration.