WHAT IS SHINGLES?

Video: See How the Shingles Virus Can Resurface After Chickenpox Video: See How the Shingles Virus Can Resurface After Chickenpox
The Varicella-Zoster Virus Lies Dormant in Your Nervous System After Chickenpox The Varicella-Zoster Virus Lies Dormant in Your Nervous System After Chickenpox

Chickenpox and Shingles: The Connection

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, called varicella-zoster. In fact, you can only get Shingles if you’ve had chickenpox. That’s because when chickenpox heals, the virus that caused it remains in your body. It lies dormant (asleep) in your nervous system, but can reactivate (awaken) at any time.

It’s your immune system’s job to keep the Shingles virus in check.

Getting Older Can Weaken Your Immune System and Allow the Shingles Virus to Reactivate and Cause Pain Getting Older Can Weaken Your Immune System and Allow the Shingles Virus to Reactivate and Cause Pain

From Shingles Virus to Painful Shingles Rash

Getting older and other factors can weaken your immune system. This allows the Shingles virus to travel down your nervous system and resurface on your skin as a painful, blistering rash. Shingles most commonly occurs on one side of the back extending to the waist, but it can appear anywhere on the body. It doesn’t matter how healthy you feel; Shingles can happen to you.

That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about getting vaccinated.

What Can Happen If You Get Shingles

The painful, blistering Shingles rash can appear when you least expect it and may range from mild to severe. Typically, the blisters are found on one side of the body, such as:

  •  Waist
  •  Arm or Leg
  •  Around the eye and in it
  •  Forehead
  •  Neck
  •  Back
See more pictures of Shingles.

The Shingles rash can last up to 30 days. And while the pain typically lessens as the rash heals, for some people it can last for months or even years. People have described Shingles pain as sharp, burning, stabbing, throbbing, shooting, and itching.

1 in 5 People With Shingles Will Experience Long-Term Nerve Pain for Months or Years

1 in 5 people who develop Shingles experience long-term nerve pain that can last for months, even years.

25% of people who get Shingles experience one or more complications, some of which may be serious, such as:

Bacterial Infections Can be a Complication of Shingles Bacterial infections
Permanent Scarring Can be a Complication of Shingles Scarring
Vision Impairment Can be a Complication of Shingles Vision impairment
Hearing Problems Can be a Complication of Shingles Hearing problems
 

Varicella-zoster virus

The virus that causes chickenpox and Shingles.

 
View Glossary
 

Dormant

In a state of inactivity. In the case of the virus that causes chickenpox, this means that the virus stays in your body after you recover but is inactive.

 
View Glossary
 

Reactivate

To become active again. Regarding the virus that causes chickenpox, this means the virus that’s already in your body becomes active again causing Shingles.

 
View Glossary


 

Important Safety Information

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please read the accompanying Patient Information for ZOSTAVAX® (Zoster Vaccine Live) and discuss it with your health care professional. The physician Prescribing Information also is available.

Having trouble paying for your Merck vaccine? Merck may be able to help. Visit http://www.merckhelps.com/