Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, the body stays in your body throughout life. If it reactivates, it causes shingles. Shingles causes a rash that is very painful, and often appears as a a strip of blisters that wraps around the left or right side of your body.

Though shingles isn't life-threatening, the pain can be intense. Shingles can cause postherpetic neuralgia long after the rash is gone. 

Shingles symptoms 

  • Burning or tingling that is sensitive to touch. 
  • A red rash begins after the pain.
  • Blisters may break open, then crust over and become itchy.
  • Additional symptoms of fever, headache, light sensitivity, and fatigue.

Did you have chicken pox?

If you were born before 1980, you likely had chicken pox, even if you don't remember. The CDC indicates that more than 99% of Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox.

The Shingles Vaccine

According to the CDC, adults over 50 should get two doses on the shingles vaccine to prevent getting shingles and to lessen complications from the disease. Younger adults with compromised immune systems should also ask their physician about receiving the shingles vaccine. The vaccine is about 90% effective in preventing shingles, and immunity remains strong for at least seven years after vaccination. 


The vaccine for shingles is called Shingrix. A previous shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is no longer used in the U.S. Users of Zostavax should contact their physician to determine if they should now get the Shingrix vaccine.