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Shingles: Introduction

Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus. Shingles is also called herpes zoster and affects nerve cells and the skin with nerve pain and a skin rash. Shingles is preventable through a shingles vaccination and has become less common since the introduction of the shingles vaccine. In some cases, shingles can be serious and result in complications.

Any person who has had chickenpox can develop shingles. When a person has chickenpox, the varicella zoster virus can invade the nerve cells in the brain stem or spinal cord. The virus can then remain there in an inactive form for years until it is reactivated later in life causing shingles. This occurs most commonly to older adults and the elderly.

Any condition that weakens the immune system can reactivate the varicella zoster virus and lead to the development of shingles. This includes such conditions as stress or other illness.

People most at risk for the reactivation of the virus include those with weakened or impaired immune systems. An impaired immune system can result from such conditions as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and having chemotherapy or an organ transplant. These people are also at increased risk for having recurring episodes of shingles.

Other people at risk for reactivation of the varicella zoster virus and the development of shingles include those who have had chickenpox but have not received shingles vaccination.

Shingles only develops from the varicella zoster virus, which is already in the body. Shingles is not spread through contact with a person with shingles. However, a person who has never had chicken pox can get chickenpox through contact with a person with shingles.

Symptoms of shingles include severe, deep pain and the development of a rash in the area where the pain is felt. Complications of shingles can be serious and include impaired vision and hearing. For more key symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of shingles.

Making a diagnosis of shingles involves taking a thorough health history, including symptoms and vaccination history, and performing a physical exam. Diagnosis is based on the history of chickenpox, and the symptoms and appearance of the rash. A test for the varicella zoster virus may also be done on the fluid from the rash blisters.

It is possible that a diagnosis of shingles can be delayed or overlooked because the symptoms of shingles may resemble symptoms of other diseases. For information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic shingles, refer to misdiagnosis ofshingles.

Treatment of shingles includes measures to help relieve symptoms and keep the body as strong as possible to minimize the risk of developing complications. This includes rest, and medications to ease pain. Antibiotics are ineffective against the shingles. However, antiviral drugs are often prescribed to minimize the severity and duration of the disease. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of shingles. ...more »

Shingles: Herpes zoster is an infectious viral infection that is believed to be caused by the re-activation of a previous chickenpox infection, often from many years before. ...more »

Shingles: Symptoms

Symptoms of shingles affect the nerves and the skin and can occur in almost any part of the body. However, shingles most often affects one side of the trunk. Symptoms generally begin with sensations of itching, tingling, and/or a severe burning pain in the affected area. The pain can be severe. Several days later a rash develops in a band or ...more symptoms »

Shingles: Treatments

Treatment of the shingles starts with prevention. The best protection from getting or spreading the shingles is receiving the shingles vaccination (varicella zoster virus vaccine). The vaccine is generally given to adults over the age of 60 who have had chickenpox.

It is possible that a person who has had the varicella zoster virus vaccine may ...more treatments »

Shingles: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of the shingles is generally made from information obtained by taking a thorough health history, including symptoms and vaccination history, and performing a physical exam. Misdiagnosing shingles is possible because some symptoms may be similar to symptoms of other diseases, such as impetigo, chest pain, rib injury, and contact dermatitis ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Shingles

Treatments for Shingles

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Shingles:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Shingles?

Shingles: Related Patient Stories

Shingles: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Shingles.

Alternative Treatments for Shingles

Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Shingles may include:

Types of Shingles

Shingles: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Shingles:

Causes of Shingles

More information about causes of Shingles:

Disease Topics Related To Shingles

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Shingles:

Shingles: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Shingles

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Psoriasis often undiagnosed cause of skin symptoms in children: Children who suffer from the skin disorder called psoriasis can often go undiagnosed. The main problem is that psoriasis is rare in children, and not often seen more »

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see more »

Shingles: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Shingles

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Shingles:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Shingles, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Shingles: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Shingles: Animations

Prognosis for Shingles

Prognosis for Shingles: Usually self-limiting, but can be dangerous or even fatal in the immunocompromised.

Research about Shingles

Visit our research pages for current research about Shingles treatments.

Clinical Trials for Shingles

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Shingles include:

Statistics for Shingles

Shingles: Broader Related Topics

Shingles Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Shingles, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about Shingles

NINDS Shingles Information Page: NINDS (Excerpt)

Shingles is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles occurs in people who have had chickenpox and represents a reactivation of the dormant varicella-zoster virus. The disease generally affects the elderly, although it occasionally occurs in younger and/or immunodeficient individuals. (Source: excerpt from NINDS Shingles Information Page: NINDS)

Facts About Shingles (Varicella-Zoster Virus): NIAID (Excerpt)

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an attack of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the nerve tissue. As we get older, it is possible for the virus to reappear in the form of shingles. Shingles is estimated to affect 2 in every 10 persons in their lifetime. This year, more than 500,000 people will develop shingles. Fortunately, there is currently research being done to find a vaccine to prevent the disease. (Source: excerpt from Facts About Shingles (Varicella-Zoster Virus): NIAID)

Facts About the Cornea and Corneal Disease: NEI (Excerpt)

This infection is produced by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After an initial outbreak of chickenpox (often during childhood), the virus remains inactive within the nerve cells of the central nervous system. But in some people, the varicella-zoster virus will reactivate at another time in their lives. When this occurs, the virus travels down long nerve fibers and infects some part of the body, producing a blistering rash (shingles), fever, painful inflammations of the affected nerve fibers, and a general feeling of sluggishness. (Source: excerpt from Facts About the Cornea and Corneal Disease: NEI)

Definitions of Shingles:

Acute infectious, usually self-limited, disease believed to represent activation of latent varicella zoster virus in those who have been rendered partially immune after a previous attack of chickenpox; it involves the sensory ganglia and their areas of innervation and is characterized by severe neuralgic pain along the distribution of the affected nerve and crops of clustered vesicles over the area. - (Source - Diseases Database)

Eruptions along a nerve path often accompanied by severe neuralgia - (Source - WordNet 2.1)


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