Shingles is caused by a herpes virus, the same type of virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. Although not completely understood, the main deciding factor between the two afflictions is age. This being said, the varicella zoster virus causes chickenpox in children and shingles in adults.

Chickenpox is generally a benign condition that doesn't leave many lasting effects, except for some possible scarring. The virus then goes dormant and hides out in nerve cells.

In about 10% to 20% of these cases, it reappears at some point later in life as shingles. This reemergence of the virus brings much more serious symptoms than just the physical manifestations.

Shingles is the symptomatic appearance in adults of the same virus that causes chickenpox in children. Following the initial infection of children with the herpes zoster virus, the virus lingers inside nerve cells near the spine. It travels along nerve axons causing break outs of a rash on the skin over its path. This usually occurs in adults over 50 years of age or those who have suppressed immune systems.

The rash subsides after two to four weeks, but nerve pain may continue for years after the outbreak. The characteristic burning pain and itching is caused by inflammation of nerve and surrounding tissues. After the virus has run its course, the symptoms again disappear as the virus retreats back to the nerve ganglia. It is rare for an individual to have more than one of these outbreaks, and almost no examples exist of people having more than three occurrences.

Symptoms of Shingles

Even before a rash appears, a person may experience the first symptoms of shingles as:

  • A burning feeling

  • Overly-sensitive skin

  • Tingling skin

  • Numbness

After a few days to a week of these sensations, a red rash forms, followed by small blisters along the path of individual nerve axons. This most often affects the torso, but may occur almost anywhere. For three to five days, the blisters continue to form, until they begin to burst and ooze. This is when a person is at his most contagious. Eventually, the blisters crust over and begin to heal. The virus is then on its way to dormancy and most of the symptoms will fade soon after.

Treatments for Shingles

The best treatments for shingles are antiviral medications. A course of these medications is very effective in reducing the severity of the outbreak if it is administered within 72 hours of the characteristic rash's appearance.

Pain medication may also be given to control severe pain and discomfort. Over-the-counter lotions and creams often help relieve the itching associated with herpes. An aluminum acetate solution, available at a pharmacy, may help dry and soothe the blisters that form from shingles. After 7 to 10 days of taking an antiviral medication, the symptoms of shingles subside, and that usually marks the end of an individuals experience with the condition.

As soon as you discover the painful rash characteristic of shingles, visit a doctor. An antiviral medication must be started early to be effective. During the later stage of the condition when blisters appear, the condition becomes highly contagious. The blisters contain pockets of the virus, that, when broken, easily spreads to others. Before the blisters form and after they have subsided, a person is not contagious, even though he or she may still display symptoms of shingles. It is the raw, direct contact with the virus that is most infective.

Doctors and scientists do not fully understand what causes the dormant herpes virus to reemerge from dormancy near the spine. It does primarily happen in individuals who have weakened immune systems, so it seems like there is little one can do to avoid developing the disease. Some research seems to suggest that shingles can be triggered by stress. This may be true since the virus lives in, and travels along, nerve axons, but there are no definitive answers about this. Corona CA professional electrical contractor


Though the rate of occurrence of shingles is low, nearly everyone carries a dormant form of the virus which causes shingles. For this reason, you should be aware of the signs and symptoms of shingles and see a physician upon developing any of them.

Early detection is the key and can mean the difference between a case of shingles lasting a week or more than a month.

Shingles is a condition that is not fully understood. The symptoms of it can be quite disturbing, but with medication, the severity can be reduced. Despite the terrible rash and blistering, shingles usually clears up fairly well and usually no permanent aesthetic damage is left behind.

The main concern with shingles is reducing the length of its symptoms. This is best done with antiviral medication prescribed by a medical professional.