The Grown-Up Equivalent of Chicken Pox: Shingles

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What are shingles?

The Grown-Up Equivalent of Chicken Pox: Shingles

In theory, the varicella virus that causes chickenpox in kids can only get you once. But if you're exposed again (most of us know someone who contracted the itchy scourge twice), the virus can hide out in your body, with nary an itch, until it decides to re-emerge in a completely different form. In adults, this virus becomes herpes zoster, also known as shingles.

Shingles is a localized infection that, once activated, spreads in a path of pain along a specific peripheral nerve pathway. It affects only the area of the body served by the region of the spinal cord where the infection began. Shingles symptoms can be extremely painful and debilitating, and include:

  • Acute leg pain
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Itching
  • A rash consisting of small, fluid-filled blisters, usually appearing in a rectangular or belt-like strip on one side of the body
While the rash-like symptoms run their course in a number of days, shingles pain can sometimes linger for months or years. If nerve-related pain symptoms last long enough, the affected nerve fibers may become damaged and lead to a condition called postherepetic neuralgia. If treated early, however, such long-term problems can be avoided. Get the help you need. Go to and enter your zip code into the free search tool to find a clinician in your surrounding area.



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