What Causes You to Get Shingles?

Reviewed on 8/6/2020

Shingles is a reactivation of the dormant herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is often triggered by severe stress, trauma or an illness.
Shingles is a reactivation of the dormant herpes zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Shingles is often triggered by severe stress, trauma or an illness.

Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Sometimes, in patients with a history of chickenpox, the virus may live in the nervous system for years in an inactive form, and then reactivate as shingles.

Risk factors of shingles

If patients have had a history of chickenpox, the risk of reactivation of the chickenpox virus as shingles include the following:

What are the signs and symptoms of shingles?

Shingles typically occurs over one side of the face or body. The common signs and symptoms may include

How does shingles rash appear?

The typical red shingles rash and blisters follow pain, itching and tingling. The rash is usually limited to one side of the face and body. 

Shingles on the face, scalp, mouth and ear

  • Rash and shingles blisters appear on one side of the face, extending to the scalp and ear.
  • If the rash involves the ear, it can lead to hearing loss, imbalance and weakness of the facial muscles.
  • Shingles rash on the scalp causes pain while combing and bald patches. 
  • Shingles can occur in the mouth, which is usually very painful, causing pain while eating and change in taste.

Shingles of the eye and forehead

  • Rash and blisters appear around the eye, over the eyelids, once side of the forehead, extending to the tip of the nose
  • Patients complain of burning or throbbing in the eye, with watering of eyes, swelling and blurred vision.
  • The pain may be present after the rash disappears due to nerve damage, but improves eventually. Without treatment, shingles of the eye and forehead can lead to corneal damage and vision loss.

Shingles on the waist and back

  • Rashes and blistering appear over one side of the waist and the back in a stripe pattern, extending up to the lower back. 

Shingles on the buttocks

  • Shingles rash and blisters over the buttocks, usually on one side. 

IMAGES

See Images

How is shingles treated?

Treatment is most effective when begun within 72 hours of the appearance of rash. Antiviral drugs (Acyclovir, Valacyclovir etc) can help you recover faster and reduce the risk of complications. 

Shingles rash and blisters can cause severe pain that over-the-counter pain medication cannot control

Treatment of pain includes:

Prevention: Vaccines are available against varicella zoster virus to prevent chickenpox and shingles.

What are complications of shingles?

Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone. Complications can also occur if the infection has not been treated appropriately:

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

References
Medscape Medical Reference



Health Solutions From Our Sponsors