Shot of a young caregiver helping a patient in a clinic.The same virus that causes chickenpox (varicella) can recur in the form of shingles (herpes zostra) later in life. Shingles presents as a rash or blisters, often on one side of your torso, along with burning or shooting pain, fever, headache, and/or nausea.

Causes

The most common cause, as previously mentioned, is earlier exposure to the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus retreats to the nerves near your spinal cord and brain after the chickenpox fade, waiting for a time when your immune system is compromised, either due to extreme stress, medication, or chemotherapy. However, you may also experience shingles without these secondary causes.

The virus is also highly contagious, so you can contract it from others around you. You can also spread chickenpox or shingles to others who haven’t been vaccinated. Especially vulnerable are pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, and newborn babies.

Treatment

The most common treatment for shingles is antiviral medication, which can slow the spread of the shingles rash if you see a doctor within seventy-two hours of the outbreak. Pain management is possible with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. Your doctor may also prescribe skin patches with numbing agents or capsaicin, antibiotics, or antidepressants.