What Is Shingles?
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a viral infection that typically causes a painful blistering rash. It usually affects older adults or people with weakened immune systems. The rash typically appears on one side of the face or body and lasts two to four weeks.
A possible consequence of shingles is a chronic, often debilitating pain that can linger after the rash clears up. A less common complication affects the eye in up to one in four cases, and may result in prolonged pain, facial scarring, and, in rare instances, vision loss.
Click on the video above to watch Susan’s shingles story. This is Susan’s experience and symptoms may vary. View Video Transcript
[VO] My name is Susan Cook and I’m from the beautiful state of Colorado. I started sewing when I was very young. My mother sewed, I would help her, so I’ve done this all of my life.
[VO] When the headache began and the odd feelings began in my nerves, I didn’t understand. It scared me. When I first learned that I had shingles, I did not believe it. When they told me how long the effects of this were going to be, I laughed. The immediate symptoms are these lesions that surface, so mine were around my eye. When my vision was impaired, that lasted three weeks.
[VO] This summer was difficult because I love to be outside. While I was home alone with shingles, I was sewing. You can’t even do that that long. I felt marooned. It is very lonely and if it’s at all preventable, it would be so easy. Shingles was humbling; it humbles you to understand that you really need to take advantage of all the time you have.
[Text] You can prevent shingles. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist today about getting vaccinated.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate years later, causing shingles. 99% of adults 50 years of age and older in the United States are infected with the virus.
Your immune system naturally weakens as you age, so your risk for shingles increases as you get older — even if you feel healthy. Almost one in three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime, leading to about one million cases of shingles per year. Vaccination can offer protection against shingles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommendations on who should be vaccinated against shingles.
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.
A painful skin rash with blisters can last two to four weeks.
Less commonly, shingles may affect the eye, causing pain, scarring, and, in rare instances, vision loss.
A complication of shingles is a chronic, often debilitating pain that may linger.