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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What is shingles?

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. The virus stays in your body after you have chickenpox, without causing any symptoms. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again. The active virus travels along a nerve to your skin and causes a rash. The rash usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Most people have shingles one time, but it is possible to develop it again.

What are the signs and symptoms of shingles?

Shingles can appear anywhere on your body, but it is most common on your torso. A line of painful blisters develops on the left or right side of your torso. The rash starts as red dots that become blisters filled with fluid. The blisters usually grow bigger, become filled with pus, and then crust over after a few days. You may also have any of the following:


What increases my risk for shingles?

How is shingles diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. Tell your provider if you have had chickenpox. Tell him or her if you have recently been around anyone who has chickenpox or shingles. He or she may also send a sample of fluid from your blisters for tests.

How is shingles treated?

Shingles cannot be cured. The following medicines can decrease your pain and help prevent complications:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

How can I care for myself?

How can I prevent the spread of the shingles virus?

The virus can be passed to a person who has never had chickenpox. This usually happens if the other person comes in contact with your open sores. This person may get chickenpox, but not shingles. You are contagious until your blisters scab over. Stay away from people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine. Avoid pregnant women, newborns, and people with weak immune systems. They have a higher risk of infection.

What can I do to help prevent shingles or a shingles outbreak?

Where can I find more information about shingles?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.