What Is Shingles? Is Shingles Contagious?

So what is shingles? Is shingle contagious? Let’s find out!

Shingles a disease which is caused by virus named varicella zoster virus. It is also referred to as herpes zoster or simply zoster. In this disease there is presence of painful rash and blisters on the area on the skin where it affects. The pre-infection of this virus causes chicken pox in children which if failed to get eliminated can cause this disease. Varicella virus becomes dominant in the nerve cell bodies from which they travel to the axons or the end points of the nerve and cause the infection of the skin in the region of the nerve. Throughout the world the incidence of this disease is approximately 1-3 per 1,000 individuals.

Signs and the Symptoms:

The earliest symptoms of this disease are headache, fever & malaise. These symptoms are found in many other diseases so the diagnosis may go wrong initially. The symptoms are then followed by pain, itching, oversensitivity to the skin, needle pricking sensation and numbness. The pain experienced may be pricking, numbing, or throb type of pain. The pain occurs after a certain intervals of time. In children the rash is often painless while in adults it is painful. The rash in Shingles occurs on face, eyes or other parts of the body. The characteristic skin rash occurs more commonly on the torso. Initially the rash appears like a hives, the changes are limited to the dermatome, which is limited to one side of the body and doesn’t cross to the other side. Later the rash becomes vesicular and forms blisters which are filled with serous exudates and there is fever & malaise. The painful vesicles become cloudy and they are painful and they are filled with blood, crust occurs over a period of time and there is discoloration of the skin. Herpes zoster can affect some other parts of body as well like eyes causing infections like herpes zoster opthalmicus which involves the orbit of the eye. It affects the trigeminal nerve. The eye infections include conjunctivitis, keratitis, uveitis, and ophthalmic nerve palsies. These infections can cause loss of vision and unbearable pain. The ear infection caused by this virus is called herpes zoster oticus. It may cause hearing loss and vertigo.


Shingles occurs in people who have had chicken pox, and it may occur in any age but occurs predominantly in older age like in people with 50 years of age. The disease is due to virus reactivating in single sensory ganglion. It occurs in the patients whose immune is compromised otherwise it can be dealt with by the healthy individual. Hence it occurs mostly in older ages when the immune system is compromised or in people in whom immunosuppressive therapy is used or there is psychological stress. The virus on reactivation travels down from the nerve cell bodies to the axons and cause infection of the skin causing local inflammation and blisters.


Shingles or herpes zoster is prevented by a live vaccine called the zostavax. Research has proved that it prevents the disease in half of the population. It is also administered in adults as immune boost.


The treatment of Shingles involves administration of analgesics for pain. Antivirals for preventing the multiplication of the virus and steroid to surpass the inflammation.

So now you tell me, what is shingles?

Is shingles contagious?

I hope you found the answer to your questions.

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