Shingles is a viral condition that results in a painful rash, though other symptoms include being sensitive to touch, itchy skin, numbness and tingling, as well as fluid-filled blisters. Patients may also deal with a fever, headache, persistent fatigue, as well as increased sensitivity to light. Most cases of shingles are found as strips of the rash and blisters around the left or right side of a patient's torso, though it can occur anywhere on the body. Shingles is not a life-threatening illness, but it can cause a great deal of pain. Vaccines reduce the risk of contracting shingles.
Shingles is a product of the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Chickenpox is medically referred to as varicella, while shingles is medically referred to as herpes zoster. When an individual contracts chickenpox as a child, the virus doesn't leave the body after it stops causing symptoms. Instead, it stays in nerve tissues around the brain and spinal cord, though it remains dormant. For reasons currently unknown to doctors, some patients experience a reawakening of the virus, where it travels along the nerve fibers and reaches the skin, causing the blisters and other shingles symptoms. If someone had chickenpox as a child, therefore, they are at a higher risk of contracting shingles as an adult.