Shingles Facts

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a common viral infection of the nerves, which results in a painful rash or small blisters on the skin. Learn More ›

Shingles: A Second Strike by the Chickenpox Virus

The virus that caused the illness many of us had as kids lurks for decades. It can strike anew with an itchy rash and fever.

If you're like many people, you had chickenpox as a kid. The itchy, blistering rash, fever, and headache are tough to forget.

And if you're like many people, you know someone who has had a second bout with the virus that causes chickenpox. That's right: The varicella-zoster virus can get you twice. Its painful, long-delayed second strike is known as shingles.

Once you've had chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in nerve roots. In some people, it may never surface. But in those whose immune systems are weakened by disease, stress, medication, or age, varicella-zoster can rear its painful head.

Learn more about Shingles


A blister is a bump on the skin containing fluid. Blisters are usually circular in shape. The fluid that forms underneath the skin can be bloody or clear.

Blisters are caused by injury, allergic reactions, or infections, which may include the following:

  • burns/scalds

  • sunburns

  • friction (from a shoe, for example)

  • eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis)

  • impetigo - a contagious infection of the skin.

  • pemphigus - a rare, blistering skin disease often occurring in middle-aged and elderly adults.

  • pemphigoid - a blistering autoimmune disorder.

  • dermatitis herpetiformis - a blistering autoimmune disorder.

  • viral infections (including chickenpox and herpes zoster)

The symptoms of a blister may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

Learn more about Blisters

Rash: Could It Be Shingles?

  • Blistering

  • Burning

  • Inflammation

  • Irritation

  • Itching

  • Redness

  • Scaling

  • Swelling

  • Flu-like symptoms (fatigue, fever, sore throat, headache, cough, aches and pains)

  • Joint pain

  • Nerve pain

  • Numbness or burning in the lower legs and feet

  • Red eyes

  • Sneezing and runny nose

  • Vomiting

  • Chest pain or chest tightness

  • Fainting or change in level of consciousness

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Rapid pulse

  • Severe headache

  • Stiff neck

  • Swelling of the mouth, lips or throat

  • Wheezing or shortness of breath

Learn more about rashes

Immunization Update for Older Adults

Vaccines aren't just for children. Every year, thousands of American adults become ill, are disabled or die of diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines.

Although infectious diseases are no longer the most common causes of death for older Americans, pneumonia and influenza remain among the top 10 causes of death for seniors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The following guide can help you determine if you need to be immunized. If you have a chronic health condition or a disease that affects your immune system, you may need to follow a different schedule from the one listed below. Check with your health care provider about which immunizations you might need.

Learn more about Adult Immunizations

Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster or just zoster, occurs when a virus in nerve cells becomes active again later in life and causes a skin rash.

The virus that causes shingles, the varicella-zoster virus, is the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is a member of the herpes virus family. Once you have had chickenpox, varicella-zoster virus remains in your body's nerve tissues and never really goes away. It is inactive, but it can be reactivated later in life. This causes shingles.

Doctors aren't sure how or why the varicella-zoster virus reactivates, but they believe your immune system's response to the virus weakens over the years after childhood chickenpox. When the virus reactivates, it travels through nerves, often causing a burning or tingling sensation in the affected areas. Two or three days later, when the virus reaches the skin, blisters appear grouped along the affected nerve. The skin may be very sensitive, and you may feel a lot of pain.

Learn more about Shingles

Your Guide to Shingles