What Causes Shingles?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, also known as the varicella zoster virus. After a person has chickenpox, the virus stays in their body and becomes inactive. Years later, the virus can reactivate, causing shingles (also known as herpes zoster).
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes the virus to reactivate, but there may be multiple factors. As a person ages, their immune system begins to weaken and is less likely to prevent the virus from reactivating. That’s why your risk of shingles increases with age. Generally, people only develop shingles once, although it is possible to get shingles more than once. People with weakened immune systems are also more likely to get shingles.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone who has shingles. However, a person with active shingles can spread the virus to someone who has never had chickenpox—or who never received the chickenpox vaccine (if they come into contact with the fluid of a shingles blister). Once the shingles blisters have developed crusts, the virus can no longer spread.
Stress may increase your risk of shingles, however age is the most important risk factor for developing shingles, as most cases of shingles occur in adults 50 years and older.
I’m up for almost anything somebody wants to try, whether it’s something old or new, I’m in. But not when I had shingles. I was out. Do anything you can not to get it.”
former shingles sufferer and GSK spokesperson
Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash typically all over the body, itching, and fever. Before the chickenpox vaccine, nearly everyone in the United States got chickenpox. The chickenpox virus can reactivate, causing shingles. People with shingles may have pain, itching, tingling, and blisters in one area of the body that can last for weeks.
You may be among the 99% of people over the age of 50 years who is at risk for shingles, since the virus that causes chickenpox also causes shingles when it reactivates. One in three people will get shingles in their lifetime.
Chickenpox blisters can appear all over the body.
Shingles rash typically appears on one side of the body.