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Herpes zoster (shingles)

for Veterans and the Public

Herpes zoster (shingles)

Shingles is caused by a virus, the same one that causes chickenpox. People with shingles usually had chickenpox as a child, and shingles is caused by reactivation of the herpes virus.

Symptoms can include:

  • painful skin blisters on one side of the face or body
  • vision loss

The skin blisters can be extremely painful. Treatment is available to help the blisters heal, but there is no cure of the underlying infection, which stays dormant in the body and can reactivate. Shingles can lead to painful nerve inflammation that persists after the skin rash has healed. Early treatment can help reduce the likelihood of long-term nerve pain. Antibiotic ointments can help keep the infection from becoming super-infected. The skin rash should be kept covered until healed to prevent spreading the infection to those in close contact. A vaccine to prevent shingles is available for certain groups of patients -- check with your VA provider to see if you should receive this vaccine.