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Mayo Clinic Q and A: Shingles: Not just a band of blisters

Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: A friend recently went through a bout of shingles. I really don't know much about this condition, but I know it was painful. How do you get it? Is there a treatment or vaccine for it?

ANSWER: Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a common condition caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Not everyone who has had chickenpox will develop shingles. However, after years of lying dormant in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain, the virus can reactivate in some people. As it becomes active again, the virus causes pain, tingling and, eventually, a rash of blisters that doesn't last long.

The reason for shingles is unclear. But it may be due to lowered immunity to infections as you grow older.

Preventing shingles

Vaccines reduce the risk of developing shingles. The Shingrix vaccine is approved and recommended for people 50 and older, including those who have had shingles or previously received the Zostavax vaccine, which is no longer sold in the U.S. Studies suggest that Shingrix protects against shingles for more than five years. The vaccine is given in two doses with two to six months between doses.

Signs and symptoms

 

Shingles usually affects only a small section on one side of your body and may include:

-- Pain, burning, tingling, itching, numbness or extreme sensitivity to touch

-- Red rash with fluid-filled blisters that begins a few days after the pain and lasts two to three weeks before scabbing over and healing

-- Fever

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