Shingles, also called zoster or herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life because the chickenpox virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that aren't fully understood, the virus can reactivate years later and cause shingles. Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime.
Shingles is a painful rash that typically occurs on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and clears up within 2 to 4 weeks but the pain can last for months. Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash. Shingles can affect the eye and cause loss of vision.
Shingles does NOT spread from one person to another. However, the chickenpox virus that causes shingles can be spread from a person with active shingles and cause chickenpox in a person who is not immune to chickenpox via disease or vaccine.
To help prevent shingles, a single dose of the shingles (Herpes Zoster) vaccine is recommended for all adults 60 years or older. Zoster vaccine is covered by most private insurance and under Medicare Part D (pharmacy benefits).