What Are Shingles?

What are shingles? Shingles or the herpes zoster virus is activated in individuals who have had the chicken pox or varicella zoster virus. Shingles is the general term for the herpes zoster virus which is...

Shingles is the general term for the herpes zoster virus which is a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus. It usually occurs in individuals who have had the chicken pox, because when you have the chicken pox, you have the activation of the varicella virus. The best way to describe it is that after you've have the chicken pox, the virus kind of falls asleep. For one reason or another, mostly in patients who have weakened immune systems or who are elderly, you can react to this virus. You usually a get painful rash with blisters that kind of looks chicken pox, but it's usually just along one nerve distribution.


Shingles is not generally classified as contagious. The only time that it is really considered contagious is if you have a family member with a weakened immune system or a family member who is pregnant. It's tough to classify, because it's a different type of contagious than chicken pox is.




Treatment for shingles includes oral antiviral medication, pain medication, and topical or oral antibiotics because sometimes you can get a secondary bacterial infection. You may also get topical analgesics, because it can be very uncomfortable itchy, tingly, or burning. You want to take into account all those things when you treat a patient.

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