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Shingles Health Center

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Cause

Shingles is a reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, a type of herpes virus that causes chickenpox. After you have had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in your nerve roots and remains inactive until, in some people, it flares up again. If the virus becomes active again, you may get a rash that occurs only in the area of the affected nerve. This rash is called shingles.

Anyone who has had even a mild case of chickenpox can get shingles. This includes children.

Recommended Related to Shingles

Understanding Postherpetic Neuralgia -- the Basics

Neuralgia is nerve pain that occurs when a nerve is irritated or inflamed. The pain spreads along neural pathways, may be brief or chronic, and can range from mild to outright unbearable. A relatively common type of neuralgia is postherpetic neuralgia, which strikes after the infection known as shingles (herpes zoster). Typically, people with this form of neuralgia experience a continuous burning sensation. Pain may be very severe and long lasting. Any pain that persists for more than a month after...

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Transmission

Exposure to shingles will not cause you to get shingles. But if you have not had chickenpox and have not gotten the chickenpox vaccine, you can get chickenpox if you are exposed to shingles. Someone who has shingles can expose you to the virus if you come into contact with the fluid in the shingles blisters.

If you are having an active outbreak of shingles, you can help prevent the spread of the virus to other people. Cover any fluid-filled blisters that are on a part of your body that isn't covered with clothes. Choose a type of dressing that absorbs fluid and protects the sores.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 18, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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