How does shingles affect the body?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Shingles can cause changes to your body that are mild and annoying or serious and debilitating. The first symptoms of shingles are usually tingling pain, a burning sensation, or itching. These symptoms can affect any part of the body, but commonly turn up on one side of the waist or one side of the face.

A few days or more after the pain and itching start, a person with shingles develops blisters on the skin of the affected body part. This skin rash clears up in a few weeks. For many people who develop shingles, the pain and itching end, too. However, shingles can cause a complication known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), in which the pain and itching persists for months after the skin rash fades away. 

Shingles is caused by a virus called the varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox the first time you're infected. During chickenpox, the virus collects in the nerve cells in your spine and brain and stays there even after you recover. Usually it doesn't cause any symptoms again, but in some people, it reactivates and travels through nerve cells to your skin. This causes the symptoms of shingles, most commonly pain and a red rash with blisters that usually develops on one side of your torso. For some people, shingles may cause complications like nerve problems and skin infections.

Continue Learning about Shingles

Shingles

Shingles

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Unlike chickenpox, shingles is not contagious, but lies dormant in your body after you have chickenpox. Symptoms of shingles include an itchy, painful ...

rash that forms blisters on one side of the body. They can also, in rarer cases, cause severe complications, like changes in vision and hearing, or pain lasting up to several years after the shingles rash is gone. Most people that have shingles have compromised immunity, or are over the age of 50, although 20% of the population will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Certain antiviral medications can slow down the virus and offer pain relief, but no cure exists for the virus.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.