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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.

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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.