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What is the definition for shingles?

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Quick Answer

Shingles is defined as a viral infection that causes a painful rash, according to Mayo Clinic. The shingles virus is caused by the same one that causes chickenpox. Shingles isn't a life-threatening disease, but the rash can create a good deal of pain.

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After a person has chickenpox, the virus is dormant in nerve tissue, Mayo Clinic explains. Many years later, the virus can reactivate and cause shingles.

Most patients with shingles experience a painful stripe of blisters that appears on one side of the torso, Mayo Clinic states. Although the torso is the most common site, the shingles rash can appear anywhere on the body.

It is important to get treatment for shingles because complications can be serious, Mayo Clinic warns. The virus causes nerve damage that can affect the brain or other parts of the body. Another neurological problem caused by shingles is postherpetic neuralgia, a condition in which the pain associated with shingles doesn't go away once the blisters heal.

Adults over 60 in the United States are urged to get a shingles vaccine, WebMD reports. The vaccine is designed for patients who have had chickenpox, and it can prevent shingles. Adults who have not had chickenpox can avoid getting both viral infections with a chickenpox vaccine.

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