Shingles is a contagious disease of the skin and nerves caused by a virus called ‘herpes zoster’, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Herpes zoster is related both to the herpes that causes common cold sores and sexually-transmitted herpes. Shingles is an acute inflammation of the tissues of the spinal and cranial nerves. Only people who’ve had chicken pox can get it, but why the virus is reactivated is unknown. You can’t get it from someone with chicken pox; however, if you’re exposed to someone with shingles, you can get chicken pox if you haven’t had that disease before. A chicken pox vaccine has recently been developed, but it’s not known what effect it will have on adults with shingles. Shingles produces an extraordinary, searing pain and sometimes fever. Symptoms also include patches of small, red blisters, usually on one side of the body or head, sometimes on the face close to the eyes. Most people with shingles get better on their own, without treatment, but sometimes antiviral medication is prescribed. The rash and pain usually disappear within three to five weeks. One danger of shingles is that it can cause nerve damage, which can result in an inability to feel pain in a certain area of the body. That may mean difficulty in properly caring for the body, because no pain is felt, which can result in severe consequences. For more information about shingles, contact a health care professional.

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