Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus lies dormant in your body once you’ve had chickenpox and, years later, may cause shingles — a painful rash that can be anywhere on your body, but often appears as a single strip of blisters that wraps around one side of your torso. Shingles is usually only dangerous if you’re over 60 or have a compromised immune system. Early treatment will shorten your infection.

What are the symptoms?

Initially, you may have pain, burning, numbness, tingling, and sensitivity to touch, in a small area on one side of your body. A day or two later, you may have a red rash, fluid-filled blisters, and itching. You may also have a fever and headache, light-sensitivity, and fatigue. The pain may intensify, and some people may experience the pain without ever developing a rash. All of these symptoms may last up to six weeks.

If this type of pain or a rash begins near your eye, get to the doctor immediately. Shingles can cause permanent eye damage. Other complications may include facial paralysis or nerve damage, infection, hearing and vision problems, and long-term pain, even once the rash is gone.

What is the treatment?

Antiviral drugs and pain medication are the primary treatments.

Can it be prevented?

There are two vaccines currently on the market which will reduce your risk of developing shingles.

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