Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful, blistering skin rash. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the virus that also causes chickenpox.
After you get chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves after many years. Many people had such a mild case of chickenpox that they do not realize they have had the infection.
The reason the virus suddenly becomes active again is not clear. Often only one attack occurs.
Shingles can develop in any age group. You are more likely to develop the condition if:
- You are older than age 60
- You had chickenpox before age 1
- Your immune system is weakened by medications or disease
If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash and did not have chickenpox as a child or get the chickenpox vaccine, they can develop chickenpox, not shingles.