Clusters of shingles blisters appear on one side of the body, here the right chest.
Previous Next 7 of 8 Shingles (herpes zoster)

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful rash caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you've had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in nerve tissue. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

A shingles outbreak may start with pain with no obvious external cause. Within several days, clusters of fluid-filled blisters appear in an area on one side of the body. The blisters then break open and crust over. Within about three weeks, the crusts fall off. Pain and itching after the rash clears up (postherpetic neuralgia) may persist for months or years.

Early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of postherpetic neuralgia. If you're over age 50, talk with your doctor about shingles vaccine options.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips, current health topics, and expertise on managing health. Click here for an email preview.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

See more Multimedia Oct. 13, 2022