Why is shingles so painful?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Shingles is caused by a virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV) that sets up housekeeping in certain nerve cells. These nerve cells, or neurons, send messages -- including pain signals -- to the brain. VZV also causes chickenpox. Most people have chickenpox in their lifetime, even if it's so mild that you don't notice any symptoms. Afterward, VZV can settle into your nerve cells and live quietly for years without causing any problems. However, for some reason, VZV can become reactivated. When that happens, VZV multiplies and travels along nerve fibers. As it does so, VZV produces the painful symptoms of shingles.

Talk to your doctor about ways you can manage pain caused by shingles. 

Continue Learning about 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.

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.