Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox—the varicella-zoster virus. Even decades after you’ve recovered from chickenpox, inactive copies of the varicella-zoster virus live within your nerves. If these viruses become reactivated, then you develop shingles.

Contact with a person who has shingles could lead to chickenpox in someone who has never had chickenpox and has not received the varicella vaccine.

Shingles starts with a burning or tingling sensation. A rash with fluid-filled bumps will appear a few days later. These will eventually crust over and dry out. It takes about 5 weeks to recover from shingles. In some people, nerve damage causes continued pain in the area of the rash (postherpetic neuralgia).

Herpes Zoster Blisters

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About 20% of people who have had chickenpox will develop shingles. Most people will have only a single episode of shingles. However, if you have a weakened immune system, then you may have more than one episode.