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Herpes zoster (shingles)

for Veterans and the Public

Herpes zoster (shingles)

Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. People with shingles usually had chickenpox as a child. Shingles is caused by reactivation of the 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 can help the blisters heal, but there is no cure of the underlying infection, which stays dormant in the body and can reactivate. Shingles can cause 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 in order to prevent spreading the infection to anyone who is not immune to the virus. 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.