Shingles is, a painful and often debilitating condition involving the sensory nerves and skin caused by the virus that causes chickenpox Varicella zoster (formerly Herpes zoster). Everyone who has ever had chickenpox carries the virus for the rest of their lives. The virus itself remains dormant in nerve cells until it is reactivated. But shingles is a far more serious condition than chicken pox. It causes a painful, blistering skin eruption that lasts for two to four weeks. Multiple blister-like bumps are arranged in a belt-like pattern that reflects the distribution of the involved nerves. Most people with shingles have pain in the area of the rash. For some, the pain is only mild and temporary, but occasionally it can be severe and last for months or even years and seriously impair quality of life. It can also lead to neuropathy (a complication known as postherpetic neuralgia), meningitis, hearing loss, and blindness.
One in three people will develop shingles during their lifetime.
Shingles affects more than 800,000 people in the United States annually. Typically, but not always, shingles occurs in immuno-compromised adults, such as those who are in some stressful situation. It is most common and most painful in people who are over 60, because the immune system weakens with ageing. Most people with shingles, therefore, are 65 years or older.
Studies show that the rate of shingles is on the rise. And the cause may be the widespread use of the chickenpox vaccine. An Australian study demonstrated that as the use of chickenpox vaccine rises so does the incidence of shingles.