Learn About Shingles

What is the definition of Shingles?

Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) results from infection by the varicella zoster virus. This common virus causes chickenpox (also known as varicella), which is characterized by itchy spots on the skin that cover the whole body and usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. After the body fights the initial infection, the varicella zoster virus remains in nerve cells for the rest of a person's life. Because the virus is controlled by immune system cells called T cells, it is generally inactive (latent) and typically causes no health problems. However, in some people, the virus becomes active again (reactivates) and causes shingles. Shingles can occur at any age, although it is rare in childhood and becomes more common after age 50.

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What are the causes of Shingles?

The causes of shingles are complex. Development of the condition is influenced by a combination of factors, including age, health, and genetics.

How prevalent is Shingles?

Because everyone infected with the varicella zoster virus is at risk of developing shingles, the condition is relatively common, particularly in older adults. Shingles occurs in 20 to 30 percent of people at some point in their lives, and about half of people over age 80 have had shingles.

Is Shingles an inherited disorder?

The inheritance pattern of shingles is unclear. Having a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who developed shingles appears to slightly increase the risk of developing the condition. However, shingles is relatively common in the general population, particularly among older adults, and so it would not be surprising to see more than one case in a family just by chance.

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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 01, 2018Published By: National Institutes of Health

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