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Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.
Shingles is a painful blistering skin rash that often appears in a strip or band on a single side of the face or body. The rash may not be the first sign of shingles. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and chills.
The rash produces chickenpox-like blisters and irritation, and pain can be very severe. In most cases, blisters will heal within 2-4 weeks and pain will subside with the rash. However, severe cases of shingles can leave the skin permanently scarred or discolored and pain caused by damaged nerve fibers can last long after shingles blisters have healed.
Matthew Plofsky, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares information on how to shorten the duration of the infection, lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly prevent shingles altogether:
Relieving symptoms and reducing severity:
Have you been vaccinated for chickenpox or shingles?