Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a condition caused by varicella zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox. It is characterized by a painful skin rash.

After you have chickenpox, the virus stays in your body, and can reappear later as shingles. Shingles occurs most frequently in seniors and those with compromised immune systems. Symptoms of shingles occur gradually and usually only affect one area of the body. They include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness or tingling
  • A red rash
  • Blistering
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Serious, long term effects of shingles can sometimes remain after the virus runs its course, including:

  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Facial paralysis
  • Blindness
  • Chronic pain
  • Hearing loss
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Scarring

Shingles is not contagious, but can be spread to those who have never had it. In that case, the person would develop chickenpox, not shingles. A vaccine is available for shingles, but is generally only given to those over 60.