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Previous Next 11 of 12 Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a condition caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus). After a person has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant, or inactive, in nerve cells. If it's reactivated, it causes shingles.

A shingles outbreak may start with vaguely uncomfortable sensations, itching or pain with no obvious external cause. Within several days, clusters of small blisters — similar to the chickenpox rash — appear in a defined area on one side of your body. Over a few more days, the blisters break, leaving behind ulcers that dry and form crusts.

Shingles usually resolves within a few weeks. Antiviral drugs may lessen pain or decrease the likelihood of persistent pain after the rash has healed. A shingles vaccine is recommended for most people older than age 60.