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What causes shingles (herpes zoster)?

ANSWER

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Following a bout of chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in the spinal nerve cells. But it can be reactivated for unknown reasons years later when the immune system is suppressed by:

  • Physical or emotional trauma
  • A serious illness
  • Certain medications, like steroids

SOURCES:

National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke: "Shingles. Seek Early Treatment."

Mayo Clinic Health Letter, June 2002.

Oxman M. New England Journal of Medicine, June 2, 2005.

Douglas M. Drug Safety,  2004.

WebMD Health News: "Shingles Vaccine to Be Routine at 60."

FDA: "FDA Licenses New Vaccine to Reduce Older Americans' Risk of Shingles."

UpToDate.

 

 

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on March 31, 2019

SOURCES:

National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke: "Shingles. Seek Early Treatment."

Mayo Clinic Health Letter, June 2002.

Oxman M. New England Journal of Medicine, June 2, 2005.

Douglas M. Drug Safety,  2004.

WebMD Health News: "Shingles Vaccine to Be Routine at 60."

FDA: "FDA Licenses New Vaccine to Reduce Older Americans' Risk of Shingles."

UpToDate.

 

 

Reviewed by Sabrina Felson on March 31, 2019

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Can anticonvulsants treat postherpetic neuralgia?

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