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What are internal shingles?

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Quick Answer

Internal shingles are an outbreak of rashes or blisters caused by the varicella-zoster virus, or VZV, which spreads to the internal organs of the body, according to The National Shingles Foundation. The varicella-zoster virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox, and lies dormant in nerve tissues until reappearing years later as shingles. Internal shingles are mainly found in patients with severely weakened immune systems.

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Full Answer

The name "shingles" comes from the Latin word for belt or girdle, "cingulum." Shingles is usually a very painful condition that commonly appears in bands on one side of the body or in a cluster on the side of the face. Places where shingles can appear externally include the neck, spine, head, face, back, trunk and chest. Internally, shingles can infect the lungs, brain and central nervous system. While very painful and debilitating, shingles are not usually fatal, except in patients with severely compromised immune systems, states the NSF.

Shingles cannot be prevented, but it can be treated. There is, however, a vaccine for chicken pox, which decreases the chance that vaccinated individuals will develop shingles later, according to the NSF. A similar vaccine designed to target shingles is being studied. Shingles can be treated with a variety of antiviral drugs, including acyclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir.

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