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What is it?

Shingles is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV). The rash consists of blisters that typically scab over in 7 to 10 days and fully clears up within 2 to 4 weeks.


  • Rash — often in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body or on one side of the face.
  • Vision loss
  • In rare cases (usually in people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread on the body and look similar to a chickenpox rash
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach

How does it spread?

Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past can develop shingles. A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters. You are not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash crusts, you are no longer infectious.


Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix) has been used since 2017, and is recommended as the preferred shingles vaccine. CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 years and older get two doses of Shingrix, 2 to 6 months apart. Shingrix provides strong protection against shingles and PHN.

About 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles, also known as herpes zoster, in their lifetime. An estimated 1 million people get shingles each year in this country. If you’ve ever had chickenpox, you can get shingles. Even children can get shingles. Your risk of shingles increases as you get older.

Your risk of getting shingles increases as you get older. The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is severe pain in the areas where the shingles rash occurred. About 10 to 18% of people who get shingles will experience PHN. The risk of PHN also increases with age.

Shingles rates have been increasing in the United States over a long period of time and the reasons for it are unclear.