What is Shingles?
Shingles is an infection that is characterized by painful rashes. It can occur anywhere in the body, but it most commonly appears on one side of the torso as a stripe of red rashes. Other symptoms include itchiness, fluid-filled blisters that break open, fever, and fatigue. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same virus responsible for chickenpox. If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus stays inside your body and may reappear as shingles later in life, especially when your immune system is not strong enough to fight the virus. Shingles most often affects people over 50, and the risk of getting the disease rises with age.
A person who has shingles can pass it onto others who have not had chickenpox if they get in direct contact with the open sores of the rash. As a precaution, you should avoid contact with pregnant women or newborns if you have shingles. While there is no cure for this disease, medications may help reduce pain and speed up the healing process. Bathing with cool water and applying cool compresses on your rashes and blisters can temporarily relieve itchiness.
A shingles vaccine is available for people who are 50 or older. The vaccine is given as a single injection containing a live virus, so you should not get the vaccine if your immune system is weak. Getting vaccinated does not guarantee total protection against shingles, but it will likely decrease the severity of the disease.