What Are Shingles?

shingles Credit: BSIP/UIG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. While most people who get shingles get it only once, it is possible for the condition to recur, explains WebMD.

Shingles typically appears on one side of the body as a band or strip, and common symptoms include pain, burning, numbness, rash, blistering, tingling and itching. People who have had chickenpox are susceptible to developing shingles, and heightened risk factors of acquiring the disease include being over age 50, undergoing cancer treatments and taking certain medications, notes Mayo Clinic.

Although there is no known cure for shingles, treatment using antiviral and pain medicines may help shorten recovery times and alleviate complications, states WebMD.

In some cases, shingles outbreaks can lead to serious complications. Secondary infections sometimes occur at the site of the rash, and the virus has been responsible for blindness, neurological disorders and nerve damage that can be extremely painful even after the rash has cleared, according to Mayo Clinic.